5 Questions Smart People Ask Themselves Before They Speak

‘Am I adding to the panic or being a calming influence?’

Michael Thompson
Forge
Published in
4 min readDec 15, 2020

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Photo: Rene Asmussen/Pexels

“Think before you speak,I told my 6-year-old son, Liam, earlier this week. I immediately regretted saying it as it’s often a generic phrase that parents give their kids when they say something rude, and I know I didn’t like hearing it when I was young. Regardless, I’m glad I said it because instead of nodding his head and scurrying away to play, Liam stopped and asked me an interesting question: “What should I be thinking about before I speak?”

At the time, his question caught me off guard, and I told him he should always ask himself if what he’s about to say is true, kind, or useful. But his question got me thinking if there’s more to the answer. As adults, so many of us run our mouths aimlessly, which can lead to stress and anxiety for ourselves and everyone around us. What should we be thinking about before we speak in order to make our time with others productive and meaningful?

Over the last week, I’ve been trying to better answer Liam’s question by collecting questions smart people ask themselves before they speak. Here are five we can all use.

Does this need to be said by me right now?

Some arguments are necessary to have in the moment, but a lot aren’t — and the angrier or more stressed we become, the more our communication skills worsen. When feeling pressed or your emotions are running high, author James Clear recommends pausing and then asking yourself if what you want to say needs to be said by you right now. Our instinctive response will rarely be our best response. Embracing the phrase “Can we talk about this when I’m thinking more clearly?” saves so much time and energy.

Is what I’m going to say actionable for the person on the receiving end?

As a startup founder and mentor at various organizations, Marina Glazman is often sought after for her advice and feedback. She told me that in giving advice, she always asks herself whether the words she’s about to share are actionable or not.

“Trust is built by taking the time to help identify the next right step the person in…

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Michael Thompson
Forge
Writer for

Co-creator of two cool kids • Storytelling Coach •.Fast Co., Insider, Forbes • Free storytelling guide here: https://bit.ly/3h1KZeT