Why you should TBYS (Think Before You Speak)

Woman thinking

That’s what effective communication comes down to

By Virginia García Beaudoux


  • The problem: Many people underestimate the preparation that communication requires.
  • Why it matters: Being able to communicate an idea is as important as the idea itself.
  • The solution: Maximise your communication skills by learning to think before you speak.

What makes communication effective? It’s capacity to reach the intended goal. In my experience, most people and teams underestimate the preparation that communication requires, because they often mistake ‘communicating’ for ‘talking’. Talking is easy. We do it all the time. Communicating though, is something quite different. It consists of the deliverance of a message, in a clear and precise manner, in a short length of time. That requires, as our parents and teachers have told us more than once, thinking before speaking.


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What does thinking before speaking mean?

Thinking before speaking means asking ourselves a few strategic questions at the time of getting our message across. For example: Will the communication take place in a favourable or hostile environment for the message I want to deliver? If I am a woman, will I present my ideas among congeners, a mixed group, or in a male-dominated environment?

Are there going to be rules for the participation, or will I have to struggle to deliver my message while everybody else raises their voices? Should I present the premises and then the main conclusion, or just state the conclusion and, only if I have the opportunity to do so, explain how I reached it? Do I need to include proof or evidence supporting the comparative advantages of my proposal? Will it be more effective to communicate just the pros, or both the pros and cons of my stand?

What will have more impact on supporting my argument: data, and statistics, or cases and stories of human interest? Would it be better to deliver the strongest arguments of my presentation at the beginning of it, or rather start with the weakest and leave the most powerful ones for the closure?  In short, we must ask ourselves what we want to communicate, and which is the best way to do it.

“All projects and ideas deserve to be strategically communicated, in order to succeed in getting support.”

Thinking before speaking doesn’t mean giving up on spontaneity. Spontaneity and improvisation are not the same thing.  Improvisation should be the exception, not the rule.  A mere resource, never a style. Thinking before speaking requires answering a few, albeit fundamental questions: What is the reason for this communication? What is the core message? If all people end up remembering only a single idea after the presentation, what should it be, in a nutshell? To whom is the message being directed, and which would be the best way to establish a connection with that audience? What would be the simplest way to explain the motivation and reason behind that particular project or idea?


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Always prepare

Be prepared. Think about the goal of your communication. Define the core idea and summarise it in a single phrase. Find the best way to communicate it to your target audience.

Having a good idea is as important as being able to communicate it effectively. All projects and ideas deserve to be strategically communicated, in order to succeed in getting support. Communication is a skill that can be learnt and mastered, and for that reason, TBYS is a great start.

*Virginia García Beaudoux is a communications consultant for UN Women, UNDP, International Idea, NIMD and other multilateral organisations, a professor at the University of Buenos Aires and founder & CEO of Communicatio.

*This article first appeared on the apolitical.co website

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