Four questions to Ask before you Start Talking

Sara Knapp

Post by Sara Knapp, Executive Coach

I’ve never been shy about voicing an opinion, sharing an observation, or calling out the elephant in the room. It hasn’t always gone well. Especially early in my career when my youthful exuberance often exceeded my political savvy. 

That’s largely changed though. I’ve become relatively skillful at communicating effectively while sidestepping the career limiting potholes I used to drive right into. You can too. 

How? By making sure you answer the following four questions before you start speaking: 

1) Why are you talking? What is it that you want to achieve? If the answer even hints of - making sure everyone knows how smart you are, how hard you work, or how superior you are, then stop, put a lid on it, and save your breath, and your career.

2) What’s your point? Better to figure this out before you start talking. Don’t make your audience do the hard work. Do it for them by making sure your have a key point that’s clear and memorable. 

3) Is it the right forum? If you have to think about it, then you’re probably not. You know those outrageous wedding speeches we’ve all heard? They are perfect reminders that - what can be charming and endearing in one forum - can be a train wreck in another. Choose wisely. 

4) Is it the best time? The answer here depends on your audience and their state of receptivity to your message. Pick-up artists have mastered this art. You can too. While simply adhering to these four questions won’t earn you a place of honor among the great orators of our time, you will find that by following them consistently you will speak less, say more, move more people, and stay clear of those career-limiting potholes that can derail otherwise fast-tracking careers.