4 Questions To Decide When To Speak

I love to observe human interactions. To be still, watching silently. 

You could think that I enjoy gossip, but that is far from true. What I appreciate is seeing people’s cognitive and emotional behaviour. 

It never was that way. My background was focused on Mathematics and some deep, crazy and theoretical stuff like number theory, cryptography and algebra. And I didn’t think much about human nature and that strange breed called people.

Destiny thought otherwise and put some people on my path who dared to challenge how I saw people.

I was one of those people with fast thinking but a quicker mouth from an early age. The awkward moments of speaking at the right moment that everybody quiets down. That led me to wrong assumptions, disagreements, and troubles. 

Studying the human condition, cognitive behaviours, and communication helped shift the way I see the World.

Self-leadership is a cocktail of even parts of self-awareness and self-management. And the latter can not exist without the former.

Follow these four simple questions to help you develop those traits and improve your grasp of what to say and when.

Is this thought something that needs to be said?

With this initial question, you start to evaluate if you will add value to the discussion or react to some “fight or flight” trigger? 

Start to analyse your emotional state, which is not easy to do. If, in the end, the answer is “yes, this is something that will add value to the discussion”, then move on to the next question.

Is this something that needs to be said by me?

Are you the right person to state what needs to be said? Or will it feel like a kid participating in a grown-up discussion? For instance, imagine you are in a meeting with the President of your country. You are there, seated in the boardroom as a mere silent guest. Should you participate in the debate without being asked to speak?

Sometimes you know the exact thought that should be verbalised but, are you the right person to be its voice. 

If the first question helped you self-awareness, this question enables you to analyse your self-control and enter the realm of self-management.

Is this something that needs to be said by me at this precise moment?

Remember that communication demands a message, a sender and a receiver. If you remove one of those, there will be no communication possible. Most of the disagreements start when one of the parties are not in a good place.

Let us use corrective feedback as an example.

Are you calm or in a hot head? Is your message constructive or full of destructive power?

When you start grasping your self-awareness and self-management, you are in a great place to control the message and to assess the sender, you! 

It is time to analyse the receiver and your surroundings.

Is the receiver in a good emotional state to receive your message?

Are you in a proper spot to speak? Remember that you will be talking with another human. They may be in a perfect emotional place to receive the message but, if it is something sensitive, facing it among other people may trigger their insecurities. A “fight or flight” moment is inevitable.

Maybe you should postpone the feedback session until you have a safer and more confidential environment. And to prevent you from continually pushing back, we have the fourth question.

If I don’t say it, will I strongly regret it later on?

When you postpone that moment, two things may happen. The situation may repeat, and you have another chance to state your mind on the matter, but other times, you forget about it. Depending on the severity of the situation, forgetting may or not be possible. If you look to another side, some cases may trigger harsh consequences, like losing some business opportunity or starting legal issues. 

Using this fourth question may help you decide if you should or should not schedule a moment to have that feedback session, or that discussion, or that meeting.

Grasping firm control on these four questions is not an easy challenge. And it all starts with your assessment.