Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you blurted something out before you considered the consequences? Have you felt the embarrassment where you just want to fade away into the walls of the room that you’re in? Since you’re reading this, I’ll assume that you have.
The most common reasons we say things without thinking are we start talking before we know what we’re saying, we want to be apart of the conversation, we speak impulsively, we want to change the topic of conversation to ourselves, and because we aren’t comfortable with silence.
Whatever reason it may be, you may or may not actually regret saying whatever your brain thought was a good idea. However, sometimes quieting your own opinion is a good idea; since it can save you from some bad headaches in certain social situations.
Especially for more social people in nature, we can often find ourselves speaking, even before it feels like our brains have processed it. We’re going to be discussing some common reasons for why we do this, and how to keep your thoughts to yourself more often (if that’s what you want to do).
Reason #1: We Begin Speaking Before We Know What We’re Saying
If you’ve ever listened to some of the world’s best public speakers, it seems as though they are able to articulate their thoughts, feelings, and emotions perfectly.
What some people don’t think about is that these speeches are often rehearsed countless times, and in the case of event speakers; it could be their 100th time performing this speech.
When in an everyday conversation, these same speakers are on a more even playing field with the rest of us. We don’t speak like robots, where everything that we say is rehearsed and our 100th time saying it.
Rather, we are simply hearing our conversation partner’s thoughts and are responding to it naturally. So, what about when our conversation partner asks a question, or says something that is completely out of left field?
In this case, because we haven’t necessarily thought about this before, our conversation partner may be hearing our thoughts and opinions at the same time as our brains are interpreting the comment and/or question.
This can lead to us saying regrettable things, where you ask yourself “why did I just say that?”
How to Stop Doing This?
How we can limit ourselves from doing this may sound crazy, but I’d guess that you’ve seen it in action before.
The next time that somebody says something or asks you something that takes you for a loop, pause for a second. Then say, “Wow, that’s really interesting”, or “Wow, that’s an interesting question, let me think about that”.
After this initial sentence, take a few seconds and consider your response. Now, you will consider any crazy thoughts in your mind before blurting them out loud.
Reason #2: We Want to Jump into the Conversation
This is specific to group social settings and plays to our human nature. When we are in a group setting, no matter if it is 3 people, or 30 people, we want to be involved.
This is of course assuming that you are, to some degree, an extrovert. Because you’re questioning “why do I say things without thinking?”, that’s just an assumption I am making.
Wanting to be involved in a conversation, on its own, is not a bad thing.
It only becomes a bad thing when we try to stretch a conversation to fit our narrative of it, even if you aren’t necessarily trying to make the conversation about yourself.
The smartest people know when to speak, and just as importantly, when not to speak. What we all must realize is that we can’t be apart of every conversation, everywhere.
Let’s say you’re in a friend group of, say 6 people.
They are all into blogging, but you’re not.
One day, you find yourself in a circle, chatting with them. One of your friends brings up his blog, and a constant flow of chatter ensues.
If you have never blogged or cared about blogging in your life, it may be best for you to just be a fly on the wall in this conversation. You aren’t expected to know everything, or even anything, about everything.
No one will be able to read the situation as well as you can, but remember that sometimes saying nothing at all is better than saying anything.
How to Stop Doing This?
In a situation like this, there is one thing you must know. Everyone is not thinking about you. If they are all geeking out over their blogs, they aren’t thinking about how weird their one friend is because he doesn’t blog. In this situation, not saying anything is totally normal.
And if they are thinking about how weird you are, because you don’t blog, then these are likely people you don’t want to be friends with. It’s that simple.
So when you find yourself in a situation like this, take a second and breathe. Stay engaged in the conversation. Meet eyes with everyone, smile when appropriate, but don’t be looking for a reason to interject. Try to be comfortable with not having anything to say.
I promise it will get easier as you do it more and more. In the beginning, it may feel strange and foreign, but your friends will (hopefully) appreciate it. And if they end up talking about it for an exorbitant amount of time, then attempting to change the subject can be appropriate.
Reason #3: We are Speaking Impulsively
Much of our lives are spent taking actions based on impulses, and our communication is no different. During a conversation, we may suddenly have a “brilliant” brainwave, in the form of something to say or ask.
I use “brilliant” in air quotes because in that split second it seems brilliant, but when it is out of our mouths it doesn’t seem so brilliant.
Once we get this brainwave, out of fear that we will either forget it or that the conversation will be taken away from this topic, we may interrupt our conversation partner.
Generally speaking, interrupting our conversation partner is never a good idea. What we must realize, is that we have tens of thousands of thoughts every day.
If you are in the middle of a conversation and you think you have something you need to say, consider it first. Take half a second to question how badly you need to say it before blurting it out, or worse yet, cutting your partner off.
How to Stop Doing This?
If we have tens of thousands of thoughts every day, you can rest assured that there are millions of different ways a conversation can go, and a great deal of them are positive.
What is important is being present, and showing them that you are intently listening, rather than focusing on the next thing that you are going to say.
Impulsively speaking can also be linked to ADHD. When we find ourselves in a conversation, we need to mindfully listen and breathe deeply. Focus solely on what your conversation partner is saying, rather than solely on what is next for you to say.
It will result in a better conversation. For help with your mental health, consult a mental health expert.
Reason #4: We Want to Talk About Ourselves
This is a similar reason to #2, but it is a little bit different. Humans, by nature, are egotistical. If we are in a group of people who are having a conversation, our brains are going to be looking for a reason for us to pitch into the conversation.
Although this is extremely common, we should do our best to be conscious of this. The next time you’re in a group setting, be mindful of the fact that not every sentence that people say needs to pertain to us, or arouse a response from us.
If you’re in a group setting and someone says, “Boy, in times like these I wish I owned a nice cabin on the lake.” If you own a cabin on a lake, it is very appropriate for you to talk about it, especially if they are not just trying to make conversation.
This person could very well learn from you and your experience with your cabin. Maybe you can tell them about the potential downfalls that owning a cabin may present (without coming across as too negative).
On the other hand, if someone says “Yesterday we were teaching our daughter how to swim, it was just so adorable”, bringing up that you have a cabin on the lake may (or may not) be an inappropriate conversation piece.
The reason is that this person is not necessarily wanting to open the conversation up to talk about swimming, the focal point of her comments was her young daughter, and how she was learning to swim.
These are of course mundane examples, but you can apply them to more serious conversations.
How to Stop Doing This?
In order to avoid this conversation pitfall, we need to be extremely mindful of our conversation partner(s). When listening to people talk, consider what they are really talking about.
In this example, she was trying to bring the focus on her young daughter and how fast she is growing up, as opposed to the conversation of swimming.
Without hearing tonality, pitch, and more meta verbal communication, it is difficult to tell where someone is wanting to bring a conversation.
As a general rule, consider what they are saying, and how they are saying it to consider what you should focus on, and potentially ask questions about.
In the example, rather than immediately turning the conversation towards yourself by bringing up your cabin, maybe ask how old the daughter is (or other questions if you already know the answer).
Reason #5: We are Uncomfortable With Silence
In conversation, the vast majority of humans feel uncomfortable if there is silence. So much so, that when we find ourselves in a situation with silence, we will do whatever we can to fill that void with something.
What it comes down to, is that sometimes silence is better than the alternative. However, we often find this out too late.
What would you rather be asking yourself; “Why do I say things without thinking!”, or “How do I fill this silence?”
The former is an error on your behalf, whereas the latter is just something that can and will naturally arise in conversation.
How to Stop Doing This?
Get comfortable with silence (i.e. discomfort). You may not want to elicit silence out of your everyday conversations with your friends, family, and coworkers, but you can even practice with strangers on the street, or at the coffee shop.
When the barista asks for your order, pause a few seconds just to soak the silence in, then ask for your mocha frappe with light whip. Once you’re more and more “comfortable” allowing silence to settle, you will feel less of a need to blurt something out when you get a whiff of it.
That’ not to say that we should seek silence out, if the conversation is flowing naturally, that’s a great thing. Creating silence for the sake of silence could just weird your conversation partner out.
So Why Do I Say Things Without Thinking and How Can I Stop?
There are many reasons we say things before thinking;
-We speak impulsively
-We start speaking before we actually know what we are saying
-We just want to be apart of the conversation
-We want to talk about ourselves,
-And we are uncomfortable with silence
Most of these reasons can be remedied by just a few simple steps; breathe deeply, calm your brain down, and bite down on your instinct to speak, whether you’re in a group or speaking with one person.