“When I’m in the moment, it doesn’t even occur to me to think before speaking, or to consider the consequences of my words. How can I try to prevent myself from speaking carelessly or foolishly?”
I’m glad you realize that you need to think before speaking. That is the first step towards not speaking carelessly. In Ecclesiastes 5:2-3 it reads, “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.”
I recommend that when you’re alone you practice thinking about why you say the things you do. Do you speak carelessly because the person you are talking to is interrupting you and you feel like you have to say what you think quickly? If so, maybe you should go to that person with your concerns. Tell them how it makes you feel. If they deny or push you off, just know that they have heard your concerns.
When you’re in a conversation and find yourself speaking carelessly, try the following breathing exercise to calm stress. Fill your lungs with air and hold your breath for five seconds, then exhale all the air. I deal with stress and anxiety so I know what it feels like to speak careless in arguments or conversation and then later regret it. This exercise has helped me so much.
Remember to pray every time you feel that you may speak carelessly. (1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing”) God can calm your mind and give you peace.
“How would you suggest dealing with critical people?”
Always deal with critical people in a loving way. (Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”) Whether or not they are open to you sharing your feelings, you must tell them how their criticalness is affecting you. If you feel like this person is hurting you emotionally or mentally, seek wise counsel. I’ve sought counseling and a life coach to deal with the baggage of a critical person and they have helped build my self-esteem and learn to deal with this person. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most churches have a care group that can help you or the critical person.
Keep that person or people in your prayers. You can only plant seeds in their life, God is the one who can soften their heart. Give your worries to the Lord and He will give you rest.
One verse I love is when Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I hope this verse has encouraged you and I hope you’ll seek the Lord whenever you have to deal with critical people.