Have you ever responded in a conversation and wish you had said something different, differently or wished you had said nothing at all? Unless you are completely lacking in self-awareness, your answer to that question is assuredly yes, and probably true most everyday of your life.
The reason for our regret is sometimes about the message we delivered, but is often connected to how that message impacts the relationship you have with the people you are communicating with. It isn’t enough to urge you to think before you respond; your mother probably taught you that before you went to school.
What we need is a framework for what to think about in that moment before opening our mouth. Here I want to share a framework for you in the form of five questions.
This simple set of questions isn’t new; I have heard it in a sermon, I know it is often taught in schools, and some claim (erroneously) it was created to help stop the spread of online bullying. It is valuable in all of those realms, and it is a powerful rubric for us as leaders too; which is why I share it with you today.
The THINK acronym gives us five questions to consider in that moment before we say something to lessen the number of times we wish we had said something differently, and improve our results in many ways.
Here are the five questions:
- Is it True?
- Is it Helpful?
- Is it Inspiring?
- Is it Necessary?
- Is it Kind?
From simply reading the questions I am sure you can think of moments of communication regret where you know that one or more of these questions might have helped you avoid that regret, and maintain a relationship and/or get a message more clearly communicated.
Let’s dive into each with our leadership hat on, shall we?
Is it True?
This one may seem obvious – we must be honest in sharing messages related to results, plans and more. We must also strive to be honest in our feedback to others. Share the data, the measurable information and tangible results. Remember too that the perception of the truth of our communication will be enhanced when we focus on what was observed without being clouded by judgment.
It is Helpful?
As a leadership communicator, strive to communicate in a way that is helpful to the person receiving it. If you are coaching someone, make sure that what you share will help them improve or succeed. If it doesn’t help someone achieve more or help reach desired outcomes, why do we need to say it anyway? Recognize that as you build a more trusting relationship with others that people will more frequently see your intention to be helpful, even if the message being heard might be hard to hear.
Is it Inspiring?
People want to be led by people who look for the positive, look to the future and can be supportive. This doesn’t mean to shield people from problems or challenges (after all, we have already talked about making our communication truthful) – it just means that communication that is inspiring is powerful. Especially as a leader, strive to communicate inspiring and hopeful messages whenever possible.
Is it Necessary?
Just because it could be said, doesn’t mean it needs to be said. For me, one of the powerful examples of this is when I am angry, upset or frustrated. If I say what I am thinking, I might feel better, but seldom will it make a positive difference in the situation. If you want to be a more effective communicator, consider this filter carefully.
Is it Kind?
As a leader you will have tough messages to deliver, and it is your job to deliver those messages. They must be delivered truthfully completely, and timely. Those same tough messages can be delivered kindly too. This question isn’t suggesting spin or soft selling a message. Rather, it is reminding us to take the other person’s perspective into account; focusing on delivering the message without attacking the person.
Using these five questions before responding will in most cases lead to more effective communication; beyond that communication using these filters will also help you build relationships and greater levels of trust with others at the same time. As a leader, having strong working relationships and high levels of trust allow you to lead more effectively.
I hope that these five questions will help you think before you respond so you can communicate and lead more effectively.