Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

Recently, I listened to a sermon in which the pastor referred to the T.H.I.N.K. acronym as a way to guide how we speak to other people.  THINK is a wonderful acronym.  It truly is a simple but powerful way to improve our communication skills and your relationships with other people.

Each letter stands for a question to ask yourself when you are saying (or writing) something to another person.

T = Is it true?

H = Is it helpful?

I = Is it inspiring?

N = Is it necessary?

K = Is it kind?

When we are in conflict with others, it typically is because we have said something that fails the THINK test.

Admittedly, the THINK test is an easy one to remember, but a hard one to apply in real life.  It takes a great deal of maturity and self-control to THINK before you speak.  Most folks just yammer and rant.

But consider how much better your relationships would be if everything you said passed the THINK test.  Consider what kind of world we would live in if everyone made sure that their what they said passed this test.  Below are some ways to evaluate whether your communication skills pass this very important test.

Is It True?

Truth is a funny thing.  It is more complex than we realize.  For example, I have a friend who left his wife.  The truth is that isn’t a very nice thing to do.  He took vows on the day they got married to stay with her for better or worse, and then he broke those vows.

However, the truth is broader than that.  During their marriage, my friend’s wife often was unkind to him.  And no matter how nice he was to her, she regularly pouted and complained.  She simply was an exhausting person to be around.  Eventually, he had enough and ended their marriage.

So, when you ask yourself if something is true, realize that the truth is far broader than the small item that you are focusing on.  The truth is bigger than that.  As a result, when you say something hurtful or unkind, be careful not to justify your comment with the statement, “Well, it’s true.”  The truth likely is far broader than your limited analysis.

Is It Helpful?

Often, we make comments in a misguided attempt to help others.  So, we might point out where someone can improve – for their own good, of course!  However, that is just a way of insulting other people and damaging their self-esteem.

Most people don’t want your opinion about how they can improve themselves.  I personally only have three people from whom I seek advice.  They are the only people whose opinions I value.  So, realize that most people aren’t interested in your opinion.

So, instead of criticizing other people, the best rule of thumb for helpful communication is this: Encourage.  Limit your comments to positive ones.  If you know someone who is floundering, realize that they will seek guidance from someone they trust.  That person may or may not be you.  Or they may just decide to fail.  People do that.  You can’t help them.

Either way, limit your comments to ones that are helpful and that encourage.

Is It Inspiring?

I know people who relish pointing out what is wrong with the world, from how bad the weather is to how bad our political situation is.  They have the Eeyore Mentality.  They like to moan and complain.

However, your words shouldn’t depress people.  They should inspire!  Anyone with a fully functioning brain knows that our world is imperfect.  But endlessly lamenting that fact is a waste of time.

Your words should inspire people to see the bright side of life.  You should compliment and encourage others at every opportunity.  Your words should help people to see what is good about their lives and the world.

Is It Necessary?

Unfortunately, sometimes we have to tell people when they’ve hurt our feelings or have done something inconsiderate.  Otherwise, resentments build up and destroy our relationships.  So, sometimes saying something negative is necessary to keep a relationship healthy.  However, we don’t have to point out every misdeed of other people.

Most of the time, we just need to let go of other people’s mistakes.  You have to accept that folks aren’t always going to do things perfectly.  That is life.  Not one of us is perfect.

So, most of our critical comments about other people simply aren’t necessary.  They accomplish nothing more than to alienate us from others.  Instead, keep your communication with others as positive as possible.

Is It Kind?

I find more and more that it has become acceptable to be mean in our society.  This development is disconcerting.  Frankly, I find the obnoxious and unkind way that people speak to each other at times to be unnerving.  (I’ve written about this issue before in the context of cyber bullying, which continues to hurt both adults and children.)

I hate to sound like I am a thousand years old, but it just wasn’t like this when I was growing up.  When I was a kid, outright meanness was rare.  And if someone made a mean comment, that person was properly ashamed of themselves afterward.

These days, people are mean in person, via text and email, and on social media.  And they don’t have enough common sense to be embarrassed by their behavior.  For example, I’ve had guests in my home who made comments that I found to be shockingly mean.  I also have received emails that were just obnoxious.  And I thought for sure these folks would be embarrassed by their behavior afterward.  But they weren’t.  They simply appeared to be self-satisfied.  Wow.

It should go without saying that all communication should be kind.  And yet, we are in a society in which everyone needs a firm reminder.  How did we get here?  I don’t know.

So, to be clear, use your words to Be Kind.  At all times.  In all circumstances.  My goodness.

Consider using the THINK acronym to improve your communication with others.  You will find that if you evaluate everything you say in this light, your relationships truly will change for the better.


If you would like to receive my Free E-Book, “The Confidence Course,” and sign up for my weekly newsletter, go to

More from Beliefnet and our partners