I’m a big believer in free speech. But, when it comes to my own freedom of expression, I’ve learned that there’s such a thing as speaking too freely – too hastily, too re-actively, too fervently — especially when I am trying to influence others.

Asking myself the following four questions is particularly helpful when I feel emotional or passionate about my own perspective. These four questions help me to “THNK” before I open my mouth.

Is it True? Is what I’m about to say based on facts or is it my opinion? Either is fine but it’s important to distinguish fact from opinion when I present my arguments to others.

Is it Helpful? Am I offering my perspective with the intention of being helpful or am I about to speak in ways that undermine my purpose?

Is it Necessary? Is what I’m about to share relevant and essential to the conversation? Or might it just be my opportunity to show how smart I am or pursue some other personal agenda?

Is it Kind? Am I sharing my perspective with respect for those on the receiving end? Do my words, body language, and tone convey dignity to others, even when I don’t agree with them?

By using these four filter questions before I speak I tend to say less but influence more. I’m more likely to choose the right moment and the most effective way to express myself. I’m more likely to speak in ways that others experience as supportive, even when we have conflicting views.

What questions do you ask yourself before you speak?

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