Ms Psyche: Think Before You Speak!

Recently, I had the displeasure of meeting *Rukky. Rukky is the outgoing, over extroverted(if there is such a word) girl. Very friendly(but shallow), talks a lot and always has an opinion about everything.

Rukky doesn’t need to know you to tell you how to run your life. Bring up any topic and Rukky must contribute. Needless to say she put her foot in her mouth a lot of times; spoke without thinking, and often had to retract a lot of statements.

Rukky also reminded me of *Nneka. I’ve met her only once, but for her; once was more than enough. We started out with random topics which she contributed to, and naturally when ladies meet we discuss relationships, and by extension- guys. Nneka ran away with the topic. ‘My guy is this, he works there, he only eats Lebanese, I trust him with my life, infact he is my life, we are getting married soon….’ Any attempt by all three of us to draw her back to reality was rebuffed, she was so sure of what she was saying, and of the guy. As fate will have it, one of us met the guy and he didn’t turn out to be half of what she claimed(or maybe it was just bad belle), and two years after, none of those future projections have materialised(maybe they are taking their time??).

In our quest to appear enlightened and trendy, a lot of us become Rukky’s and Nneka’s, male and female, especially online; across all social media platforms. Quick to comment, even when talking off point. Quick to claim knowledge and familiarity. The Mr/Mrs know all’s, the Dangote’s godchild, who ‘cook shawarma, and ‘visit the beach in Washington DC’. From our rulers/politicians(I recently watched a politician negate and attempt to defend a speech he made previously), to the white or blue collar workers, to the youths and children, here are a few tips to help us when conversing interface and accross social media platforms:

1. It’s okay not to have an opinion: It doesn’t make you less of a person, even when you do have an opinion it is wise to LISTEN carefully to the thread and dimension of the discussion before you voice your opinion(s).

2. Consider what you are about to say carefully: Does what you are about to say/tweet/upload/comment potray you well? The human brain has the ability to process information quickly, do not worry about appearing stupid while you think. It is more foolish to speak before you think.

3. Observe the people: Who is speaking and how do they communicate? Some people are very literal and some people use examples. Some people use a lot of facial expression and body language to augment their conversation, whereas others rely on complex verbiage. How people convey information is a very good indicator of how they best absorb information.

4. Formulate responses: Not just one, but consider your options. There are many different ways to say things, and your goal here is to find the best way to convey what you want to say in a way that has a positive impact. Communication is primarily a function of the recipient so you have to communicate based on the listener.

5. Consider the information: Is what you want to say Effective, Necessary, Accurate, Timely, and Appropriate (ENATA)? If you are just responding because other people are talking, then it’s possible your communication doesn’t fit the ENATA model. If not, then sit back and continue to listen. You want what you say to have impact, not just make noise.

6. Gauge the reaction: Is the information you’re going to present formulated in a way to make a positive impact? Creating a negative atmosphere will guarantee failure in communications. You want people to understand that you are contributing rather than detracting. It only takes once to ruin your ability to communicate during that time. Identify how the listeners will react.

7. Be thoughtful about your tone: How you say it is, in many ways, as important as what you say. Tone of voice can convey enthusiasm and sincerity, or it can rebuff and show sarcasm, and as most people have experienced, what we say can be taken in the wrong way. The most likely reason is that the tone of voice, what was said, body and facial language, as well as content, were not all thoughtfully combined to integrate with the listener’s most effective method of communication.

8. Communicate: You now know what you’ll say, why it’s ENATA, how you’ll say it and the most likely reaction. Wait for an appropriate break in the conversation and speak. It’s usually best not to interrupt, although there are occasions when that will work best. When to interrupt is beyond the scope of this article.

9. Finally, remember nothing is cast in stone. The only constant thing in life is change, people change, situations change. Don’t go swearing or attesting to things, because if and when it happens, someone will remember and call you out on it, and unless you are a politician or a political jobber, I think your credibility should be important to you.

Thinking before you speak cuts accross all areas of our life; in our careers, academics, relationships, etc.

I know we might think this is all so complex, in reality it isn’t. Thinking before you speak will save you from a lot of faux pas, misrepresentations, and conflict(s).

Till next week.
Ms Psyche.


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