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11 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

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11 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

Go ahead and admit it. You have said things before that you wish you hadn’t—and wanted to take back. Right? Sure, we all have.

It’s part of human nature. Sometimes we get so emotional about something that we forget to think before we speak. It’s like something paralyzes our rational and logical brain, and in the process, our emotional brain lets words come out of our mouths that never should have.

However, some people do it more regularly than others. And if you want to learn how to think before you speak, you have come to the right place.

But first, let’s talk about the 11 reasons why you should think before you speak.

Some people may have been taught by their parents to think before words come out of their mouths. But many others have not. If you are in the latter category, then you will want to seriously think about these very important reasons why you should think before you say something you shouldn’t.

1. Your Words Reflect Who You Are

When I was growing up, my mother taught me and my sisters not to use swear words. I thought she just wanted us to be lady-like, but there was an even deeper reason.

Sure, being lady-like is a nice thing. But beyond that, she was teaching us that the words you use determine your character. They affect not only yourself but also how people perceive you and what kind of person they think you are.

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2. Words Have Power

I’m sure that you are aware of the politically correct language movement. Basically, it’s changing words to nicer ones.

For example, back in the 1970s, people used to use the word “retarded” to describe a person who was mentally slower than average. But since then, people have started using it as an insult. So, over the years, we have adopted different words and phrases like “special needs.”

The point is that if you make the words nicer, then they will not hold as much negativity.

3. Words Can Hurt (or Help) People

As I mentioned, words have power, and part of this power can be good or “evil.” What you say to a person can hurt them—emotionally and mentally.

And even though the saying goes “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” it is not true—words DO hurt. But they can also help. So, it’s important to make sure that the words you use help people instead of hurting them.

4. Your Emotions Can Make You Say Things You Don’t Mean

I’m sure you’ve been angry at someone and said something that hurt them. And after you calmed down, you might have thought, “gee, I didn’t mean it like that.”

You see, when you are angry, it shuts down the logical part of your brain and then your emotions rule yourself. And then when the emotional part of your brain doesn’t act as a filter for your words, you might say things you don’t mean.

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5. You Might Have Assumed intention on the Other Person’s Part

You might be upset at someone because you thought they had intentions to hurt you. Then, as a result, you might lash out at them because of it.

But not everyone has the intention of hurting you. Sometimes, people say things that are interpreted as the opposite of what they intended. So, make sure you talk with them to see what they actually mean before you assume anything.

6. You Might Be Overreacting

When we think someone said or did something hurtful to us, our emotions tend to go through the roof. Our automatic instinct is to explode.

But that could very well be an overreaction. As I stated above, you should instead make sure that what they said warrants your emotional outburst because many times it doesn’t.

7. Your Relationship With Other People (or Situation) Doesn’t Warrant Your Words

It’s one thing to explode in anger to your sibling, best friend, or spouse, but it’s another thing to do it to your boss or another superior. You need to assess whether you are about to say is appropriate for the kind of relationship you have with a certain person.

By the same token, you also need to think about the situation. If it’s a time, say, when you are at work or a company party, then it’s best to keep your mouth shut and talk later.

8. You Might Be Judging Too Harshly

Too many people judge others before they’ve heard the whole story. It’s easy to jump to conclusions, get angry, and say things that may or may not be true.

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If you automatically start criticizing and judging another person, they are going to get defensive. And when that happens, more negativity ensues, and the conversation (and relationship) can get ugly.

9. Words Can Destroy Relationships

Speaking of relationships, the more negative words that are spoken to another person over time, the more it damages them—and also the relationship between the two of you.

Think about it—would you want to stay with someone who was constantly calling you names and saying mean things? Of course not! Your words could absolutely destroy your relationship.

10. Words Can Affect Other People’s Actions

Let’s say you are angry at your 10-year-old daughter and you call her “fat” without thinking about it. Well, this is something that she may carry with her for the rest of her life, especially if you say it often.

She could easily become anorexic or develop some other problem. She may turn to self-loathing and start cutting herself. Words are long-lasting and affect other people’s actions.

11. You Can Never Take It Back

Once you say something, it is out there forever! You can never take it back. Sure, you can try, but it won’t work.

Taking back what you say is like trying to put air back in a balloon—it doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter how much you try, it won’t change the fact that those words are out there—forever.

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What Should You Do Now?

Now that you know the reasons why you should think before you speak, how can you do that? It’s easier for some people, while others find it nearly impossible.

First, you should wait at least 5 or 10 seconds before you say anything, especially when you feel upset or angry. If you can’t keep your mouth shut, then an alternative is to just leave the room or situation. This way, you will prevent yourself from saying anything that you will regret.

When you pause for those few seconds or leave the room, you need to think about whether you have a good point to make.

Are your comments relevant, appropriate, or helpful? If not, perhaps you shouldn’t say anything.

Before you speak, consider the other person’s feelings. How will it affect them? Believe it or not, it will. And if you do find that said something that you didn’t want to, then you need to apologize and take personal responsibility for your actions and words.

Finally, don’t forget to learn from your mistakes! We’ve all said things that we regret. It happens. But the difference between people who do it all the time and the people who don’t is that the ones who don’t have learned not to do it and now know how to do it better.

Final Thoughts

If you find it difficult to think before you speak, don’t beat yourself up over it. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t strive for positive change.

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Empathy is key—think about how your words affect others. You want to be a positive influence on other people, not a negative one. So, make sure you choose your words wisely—you won’t regret it!

More About Being Mindful With Speaking

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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