Have you ever been in a situation where you said something that you wish you hadn’t? If I ask this question during a presentation I don’t have to wait long before I see every hand go up in the room. Some go up quickly and others go up slowly, almost reluctantly while sighing or shaking their heads as if the incident was still too fresh in their minds. Some of the phrases that come to mind are “I really put my foot in my mouth”, “Think before you speak”, or my favorite since my mom had to tell me hundreds of times during my youth, “If you haven’t got something nice to say, don’t say it at all”. Now before I go on, since just thinking about this topic is giving me a small dose of anxiety, I’d like to apologize to anyone who I’ve offended by making some off-the-cuff inconsiderate remark! There is no good excuse but I do apologize. The bottom line is that we’ve all done it and believe it or not, it’s extremely important that we recognize it! If we say that it hasn’t happened we’re blind to a fact that has or will cause problems with our personal and business relationships. So, let’s clear your memories, take your foot out of your mouth and talk about solutions.

When I learned the concept that I call Step 2: Apply Filter, I was attending a conference and listening to a highly skilled and entertaining speaker named, Joel Weldon. At that point in my life and still today, he is the most prepared speaker I’ve ever seen give a presentation. It seemed to me that every single second of his presentation was completely mapped out for maximum effect. He touched on this topic which I later expanded and built into training modules for the business owners and staff who I trained. Applying a filter is a way to guard against blurting out the first thought that comes to mind during a conversation or interaction with someone or a group of people.

The key to applying this filter is taking a moment or two to process your thoughts before you respond in a way that may not be particularly productive to the outcome that you’re trying to reach. The biggest key is that your response isn’t a race so take your time and give it a moment’s thought and apply your filter. Then instead of you saying, “Justin, that’s got to be the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard” which basically shuts down Justin’s willingness to respond in the future and potentially leaves a scar so to speak. You can use a more filtered response.

Maybe it is a dumb question, maybe he didn’t put a lot of thought into it, or maybe he’s just uninformed… It doesn’t matter! What matters is your response which could be filtered to sound more like, “That’s interesting, Justin. Help me better understand where you’re coming from with that concept.” The filter provides a much less threatening way to work through the interaction and won’t shut down the potentially brilliant responses from others. So, if Step 2 is the filter, what is Step 1?

Listen…completely, ask clarifying questions, restate the concept. You know, listen like you were getting directions to someone’s house when they live outside of cell service. Step 1: Listen is the strongest relationship developer that there is. Once you’ve done your job listening, don’t destroy what you’ve built up by tearing it down by responding without your filter.