Think before you speak

Craig Huntington

President, Alliance Association Bank

Think before you speak—we have all heard what we need to know about communication, and we’ve heard it dozens of times.  Everyone writes about communication, even more talk about communication—but no one thinks about communication.  Let me say this one more time, no one thinks about communication.

If you Google communication, you’ll return roughly 322 million pages—Google leadership and you return about half that—Google Brittney Spears and you drop down to 13.4 million pages.  So clearly communication is a topic of much discussion.  But the topic stops at conversation—it never moves to the next step.

So what is the next step?  The next step is deliberate and continuous thought about how communication impacts our daily lives.  If you take the time to think about communication, there is no doubt in my mind that there would exponential increases in your effectives as a manager, mother, husband, friend, co-worker, and manager.

We have all heard the buzz phrases of business communication—active lessoning, seek first to understand then to be understood, concern for impact, use I phrases, open-door policy, paradigm shift, energize, synergize, touch base, win-win, offline—the list goes on and on. The ideas captured by these phrases are an important step to effective communication, but before you can actively lesson, you have to think about active listening, and before you can create a win-win situation, you have to think win-win.

The key to developing good communication skills is developing the habit to think about communication—to think before you speak.  A skilled businessperson and communicator recognizes the moments when they need to be conscientious and thoughtful about the language and style they use.  During heated conversations or important discussions, you must be actively thinking about what you are saying and how you are saying it, and in a similar sense you must be an actively engaged listener, seeking clarity and understanding.

My staff is constantly amused by the banner attached to the headset of my phone—reading “seek understanding and clarity”—but I cannot answer the phone without thinking about the understanding and clarity that I seek in phone conversation I am about to have.  On countless occasions, halfway through the conversation, the phrase has run through my mind, and it has given me the single moment to assess my communication—to think before I speak—and this makes the difference.

Every communication presentation and article is clichéd.  The simple truth is, the secrets of communication are obvious.  They’re just difficult to practice and follow.  Take a few moments each day, and try and practice good communication and develop the habits that will make a difference.

It does little good to talk about communication, one must actively think about communication.  In the modern world of business we hear a great deal about strategic plan, mission statements, and setting objectives.  These incredibly important parts of a successful organization and illustrate the underlying theme where the true value lies.  The underlying theme is one of preparation and thought, and if you can apply it to communication, you will be successful in any endeavor.

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