T.H.I.N.K. before you speak


A few years ago, I heard a powerful message from Dr. Ed Young, the pastor of Second Baptist Church. He was delivering a sermon that revolved around the toxicity of gossip. He said something that stuck with me, and I even shared it with you here on my blog.

Basically, it was four questions to ask ourselves when we engage in conversations that are tempting and intriguing, but not necessarily in anyone’s best interest. Dr. Young challenged us to ask Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

Recently I ran across a variation of this. An acronym that reminds us to T.H.I.N.K. before we speak. Ask is it true, helpful, INSPIRING, necessary or kind? I really like the insertion of the word inspiring. It takes the saying one step further and challenges us to use words in a productive way. To focus on building something, making it better or moving it forward, and to exercise our power to be a positive influence on others. Asking that one question – is it inspiring? – would divert so much of what people say these days.

I’ve found myself thinking about this often. Turn the television to any news program covering politics, and regardless of your position, most of us would agree there’s little being shared that inspires us. More often, viewers are left with a sense of negativity, uncertainty or distrust. Some of what we hear does little more than pique wasted curiosity, and the only thing it inspires is palace intrigue. Is that helpful or necessary?

It’s easy enough to turn off the television, but what about workplace palace intrigue? That tempting, curious interest about who said or did what and an uninformed opinion about why. What does that inspire? The same sense of negativity, uncertainty and distrust. None of us wants to be part of something like that. That’s not our culture. What brings people to Texas Children’s is our shared desire to be better and to do better.

In a large, dynamic organization like ours, there is always movement and change within a workforce of nearly 15,000 staff and employees. Change is natural and inevitable, and it’s actually a really good thing for our organization that often presents us with new opportunities. But if we’re not careful, gossip can distract us from those opportunities.

Be bigger than that. T.H.I.N.K. and stay focused on what really matters to our organization – moving our mission forward. Our patients and families trust us to keep that focus.

I want each of you to click here to print out this acronym – T.H.I.N.K. Keep it some place visible in your work area and at home. Use it as a barometer for your words and a constant reminder of who you are and what we’re doing here. I know we’re surrounded by acronyms, but let’s make T.H.I.N.K. our collective and visible commitment to inspiring good.


Mark H. Wallace

Category: Culture

About Mark A. Wallace

Mark A. Wallace was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Texas Children’s Hospital in 1989 at the age of 36. Under his leadership, Texas Children’s has grown into one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive pediatric and women’s health care organizations, garnering more than 4.3 million patient encounters annually and achieving international recognition as a referral center.

22 thoughts on “T.H.I.N.K. before you speak

  1. Kimberly Vetter says:

    I absolutely love this blog post! When you wrote about this topic a while back, I shared it with my husband and two children. Since then, the questions – Is it true? Is helpful? Is it necessary? Is it kind? -have become a mantra in our house when someone is about to say something hurtful. The other day while riding in the car, my 7-year-old daughter was about to say something to her brother that would undoubtedly cause an argument. Before she got the words out of her mouth, I told her to think hard about what she was about to say. She paused and said: Is it true? Yes. Is it helpful? No. Is it necessary? No. Is it kind? No. And guess what? She didn’t say what she was planning on saying and we had a nice drive home. Thank you for sharing such a useful and accessible tool. It has made everyone in my family a more compassionate communicator. I’m excited to share with them the new addition to T.H.I.N.K. – Is it inspiring? – and to see what outcomes unfold.

  2. John Arnold says:

    What an important message to read first thing on a Monday morning! I remember my mom asking my siblings and me, “Is it needful, kind or true?” when we were growing up. This wisdom has stayed with me my whole life. The addition of inspiration to that mix is a game changer. It really forces one to pause and reflect before letting the words enter the ether, “Is this statement going to benefit someone?” I appreciate the reminder. Thank you, sir!

  3. Ann McClarney says:

    Great blog today, lines up with my new year resolution to be more Deliberate in my words, thoughts and actions. Your words help refine my resolution.

  4. ANNETTE says:

    Thanks Mr .Wallace,
    I ran across these words a few weeks ago…

  5. Alysha T. Grant says:

    This is great. The acronym is right on point. For we must take time out and not respond out of emotions because we can overreact and simply use the incorrect judgment. And there is so much power in the tongue and speech, for we must be aware of what we say to others and ourselves. Words can hurt and damage those that are near and dear as well as strangers.
    Thank you for this insight.

  6. Darla Espinoza says:

    I think this is a great blog. I try to do these things but love the acronym that can help keep my words positive and use my speech for good things. Words as small as they can be can be so very hurtful and powerful both in a negative as well as a positive way.

  7. Nan Ybarra says:

    I can so relate to this blog; is it inspiring? Does this elevate the conversation is something I have started using in my own life professionally and personally. Anyone who knows me also knows that I often say, “what is the goal?” If we can’t pinpoint a specific goal or reason, is this worthy of our time, our thoughts, our energy? We elevate ourselves when we elevate the discourse that we have with our family, our colleagues and our teams.

    Manage your life energy, your chi, as though you only have so much to spare because you do. Make the thoughts, actions, words and interactions that you share matter and elevate the conversation to one worthy of having.

  8. Monica Reed says:

    This is so on point. Life and death lies in the power of the tongue… for our patients, families, and colleagues.

  9. Joy M says:

    How timely! I have printed 2 copies (for office and home office). Being intentional when we speak yields amazing benefits for all parties involved. Thank you for this reminder.

  10. Lauren Westerfield says:

    I think that the addition of the I impacts the H and the N the most, particularly in helping choose the specific words and tone used. With coworkers and trainees there are often times when we have discussions that are necessary or are intended to be helpful, but taking the time to frame those discussions in a way that is inspiring can really change what message they take away, and encourage them to set and meet high standards for themselves. It reminds me of the advice my grandfather gave me (carefully and laboriously typed on an index card) upon my graduation as I prepared to enter the workforce:
    “Do all that you do in such a way as to nurture the self-esteem of others.”

  11. Marietta de Guzman, MD says:

    Thank you Mr. Wallace. So timely and so relevant.

  12. Denise Tanner-Brown says:

    This is such a relevant and timely read. Workplace gossip and unproductive banter is the kyrptonite to vision and productivity. It breeds unhealthy competition and useless anxiety. This energy is better used developing strategies and implementing programs that improve patient care, education, and research. None of us are perfect and we can all do better and as a leader, I feel both compelled and obligated to lead this shift in our culture by being a tangible example. I will be sure to T.H.I.N.K. before I speak. Thanks for sharing.


  13. Lovie says:

    What a great post! Simple, is the one word that come to mind as I read this post. It should be simple to put this gesture in place in our every day lives and conversations. I will definitely print out this acronym and post it in my office as a reminder to my teams to T.H.I.N.K. before you speak.

  14. DK Lovick says:

    I love that this is so applicable to every single word that is spoken. Home. Work. Anywhere. Thank you Mr. Wallace for keeping us on the high road.

  15. Stephanie Jacobs says:

    Thank you Mr. Wallace. T.H.I.N.K. and stay FOCUSED.

  16. Felicia Crain says:

    This post is amazing and it just inspired me! Having been a part of this organization for almost 18 years, I have come to see that change is very real and is to be expected. It’s inevitable. In order to adapt, we must T.H.I.N.K. and stay focused as you said while continuing to press towards the mark. Sharing something like this within your organization sets you apart from any leader that I’ve ever worked under. Not only can I use this in my work environment but it can help me to grow in my personal life as well. Thank you Mr. Wallace for being the incredible leader that you are!

    1. Mark A. Wallace says:

      Dear Felicia and all of the thoughtful and inspiring employees who submitted comments,
      You’re all amazing and it’s an honor and privilege to serve you as President and CEO! Be watching for a special message on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

  17. Sandy Kohlhauff says:

    Simple and beautiful message that everyone can benefit from. The power of words can never be overstated. Thank you, Mr. Wallace, for this inspiration.

  18. Angela Gooden says:

    Timely and salient words Mr. Wallace. I really appreciate your willingness to speak freely on the issues at hand.

  19. Antoinette Edwards says:

    Wow! I absolutely LOVE this blog (T.H.I.N.K) it reminds me to stop and reflect before I speak. Make sure the information I share will be relevant to the conversation and the audience I’m sharing with. Thank you for sharing Mr. Wallace

  20. Kiimberly Troupe says:

    I’ve been raised, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. If we would just T.H.I.N.K of how we want to be treated and talked to. Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue.
    Thanks Mr. Wallace for reminding us to always think before we speak!

  21. Virginia Tomlinson says:

    Thank you, Mark, for this important reminder about how we should operate both in our professional and personal lives!

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