With each column I write, I carefully consider the point I want to make. I draft the column, reflect on it, tweak it, and review it before I submit it to my editor, who does some of the same.
Unfortunately, that type of careful thought and reflection doesn't always happen in the business environment. Today’s technology and social-media platforms enable us to express top-of-mind, unfiltered thoughts to the world--often to disastrous results. Remember, just because we can say something doesn’t mean we should.
My sister shared a poster with me that appears throughout the high school where she teaches. While it is good advice for students, I think it is equally good advice for leaders. It reads:
Before you speak, THINK…
T - is it True?
H - is it Helpful?
I - is it Inspiring?
N - is it Necessary?
K - is it Kind?
Using this guideline does not preclude you from having tough conversations with your team. Even constructive feedback, if delivered correctly, meets these criteria.
So, regardless of what or how you feel, T.H.I.N.K before you speak.
Download free chapters from the author's bookLeadership Matters for more insights and inspiration.
Words are very powerful. We use them every day, sometimes without giving it much thought. With words we can accidentally or intentionally hurt others. Words can change a situation from bad to good or from good to bad. This must be why God has so much to say about our words, our lips and what comes out of them. I was listening to a very prominent teacher not long ago and he gave an acronym to remember so that you wouldn’t forget to mind your tongue and guard against saying things that don’t edify. It’s a very catchy acronym. Before you utter a word you should T.H.I.N.K. Think about what you are going to say.
The first letter “T” stands for True. Is what you are saying true? If it is not, you should not repeat it. If you aren’t sure then you shouldn’t say it. How many lives have been turned upside down because someone repeated something that they thought was true but didn’t know for sure. Words can hurt. Words can tear down. We have to be careful to be truthful.
Proverbs 12:22 says, “The Lord detests lying lips. But he delights in men who are truthful.
Proverbs 12:17, “A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies.
Are you truthful? Remember the first test of whether you should say something is, is it true. By the way, even if it is true doesn’t mean that you have to say it. The next few parts of the acronym will illustrate that for us
The second letter is H. “H” stands for helpful. Is what you are going to say helpful? Will it help whomever you are going to tell this to? Will it bring them much needed aid or do the reverse.
The scripture I found to illustrate this point is Proverbs 12:18. It says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Will your words bring healing? If not, don’t say them…even if they meet the first test of being true, if they aren’t helpful in some way, maybe you shouldn’t say them.
The third letter is “I” for inspirational. Will the words inspire? Will they cause someone to be inspired or create an inspirational atmosphere?
Proverbs 12:23 says, “A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly.”
A prudent person does not need to tell all they know. They have quiet confidence. An insecure person has something to prove and will eagerly try to prove him or herself by telling all they know. While people do not notice a quiet humble person right away, they will respect them later. But we aren’t trying to be recognized by people anyway. The only recognition we should seek should be that of our Father in heaven. We should not seek to be seen by others. If we do, we are off track. It is so discouraging when I am with friends and a husband or wife says something to make their partner look inferior or otherwise silly in a crowd. Usually this makes everyone else uncomfortable. You feel for the partner that has been berated. As Christians we should only say things that are inspirational to others about our spouses. Take your husband or wife’s inadequacies to your father in heaven. He is the only one that has the power to make changes. God is NOT pleased when we choose to berate our husbands. His kingdom is not glorified nor does He get any glory.
The next letter “N” stands for necessary. Is it really necessary for you to say what you are going to say? Do you really NEED to say it, or do you simply want to say it? Many times things we say are not necessary but we choose to say them anyway. We need to learn to keep silent at times when our words aren’t necessary, inspirational, or helpful. We need to guard our lips against idle unproductive verbiage.
Proverbs 13:2 says, “From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things, but the unfaithful have a craving for violence. He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.”
Have you spoken rashly to your children, husband, wife or friend? I have blown it many times. I have gotten better but it takes a conscious and diligent effort not to say things that immediately come to my mind. It’s a struggle but I’m determined to do better. My goal is to please the Lord in everything I do. I thank God for always giving me another chance. My speech is very important and says a lot about who I am as a person. What does your speech say about you? Have you spoken words of love and peace or have you spoken harshly and recklessly?
Finally the “K” stands for kind. Is what you are going to say kind?
Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
Are you a kind person? Does your speech reflect kindness? Would your co-workers, neighbors, church members, friends and family characterize you as a kind person? Kindness is also one of the fruit of the spirit. (Galatians 5:16) Are you exhibiting that fruit today? If not, what are you exhibiting? You have to make up your mind. Either you want to please God with your life or you don’t. Yes, you will mess up, you will lose it at times and not say the right things but ultimately, it is your responsibility to fix your errors by going to God and repenting. When you repent, you turn from your sins. If you turn from it, you should not turn back to it. Our mistakes are used for our growth. We should continue to learn from our mistakes and get better!
So before you say something to someone today, THINK! Is it true, helpful, inspirational, necessary and kind? If it is, you can feel free to say it. If it’s not, you probably shouldn’t say it at all. I am reminded of Ancient Greek philosopher, Plato’s very profound words when contemplating the necessity of a statement:
“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.
Words can either hurt or heal. What did yours do today?
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