In our previous Wisdom Note, we began to explore why it is important to learn that instead of speaking we need learn to keep our mouth closed whenever possible. Each time we speak, it is a conscious choice to do so.
We are focusing on 10 lessons that will at least help to minimize the potential negative impact that our tongues may have. Unless you are a ventriloquist it all boils down to the fact that we need to think before opening our mouths to speak. We will continue on to lesson #3 in this note, and for each of these lessons we need to know to say “keep your mouth shut when…”
Lesson #3 – You want to gossip.
When you want to say something negative about someone behind their back, don’t. Just don’t. There is almost never a good reason to do this. It makes you look petty, childish, and mean-spirited. It might get back to the person you’re slandering. Never gossip, and if someone does something truly terrible, that will significantly harm someone or an organization, you might need to discuss it. If you are in an appropriate position, discuss it with that person privately first. If it is unresolved then discuss it with an appropriate person to decide what course of action to take.
Lesson #4 – The details of a plan or deal are not complete.
Look to that old adage “Never count your chickens before they’re hatched,” or “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” If you’re making plans for some big activity or making a deal of some kind, never announce it until the crucial details are worked out or the paperwork is complete. You’ll feel embarrassed or stupid if things fall through.
Lesson #5 – You’re mad or upset with a person or situation.
When someone annoys you, don’t respond right away, as you are likely to blow up and/or say something you will regret. And, you can’t take it back. A word spoken cannot be unspoken. Even if you apologize, people will not forget. You’re weak when you’re angry. Don’t act in a moment of weakness. Even if they’re wrong and you’re right, you won’t come out of it looking good.
Lesson #6 – You have had too much to drink.
While I do not drink alcohol myself, I know that most people do. It’s really hard to keep your mouth shut when you’re drunk. Even small amounts of alcohol lower inhibitions and make you far more likely to say something inappropriate. If you are drinking, be aware of how it affects you. If you are able to keep quiet after a few, do so. Or, cut yourself off before you get to the point of brutal honesty. It is hard enough to control our tongues when we are sober. Be very careful when drinking.
Lesson #7 – You’re about to ask a question that isn’t really a question.
If you are at a gathering or meeting and you feel that you just have to interject into the conversation, to tell some story from your past, or to ask a question that does not add to the conversation, be careful. So many times we try to shift the focus to ourselves, instead of allowing others to speak.
Lesson #8 – You’re about to complain.
If you are getting ready to speak, check yourself to see if you are about to complain about something. You might be thinking that it’s hot, you have too much to do, something smells, or that person is mean or stupid. All of these may be true, but keep it to yourself. Nobody likes a whiner. If you must speak, look for only positive things to speak about.
Lesson #9 – Someone else is being a jerk.
When someone else is being stupid, rude, belligerent, or an idiot in some other way, let them. Don’t call them out, get mad, insult, or embarrass them. First, they could just be having a bad day, or they do not know how to handle themselves in whatever situation they’re in. Be kind, and you’re likely to diffuse things far quicker than if you react in a like manner. If the person really is just a horrible jerk, they’ve got enough to deal with in life and will eventually pay the price without your help. “Everything is its own reward.”
Lesson #10 – You’re about to talk to fill the silence.
Silence can be awkward, but there are a couple of reasons you shouldn’t necessarily rush to fill it. The first is that some people just like to think before they speak and aren’t as freaked out by pauses as others. So, when you jump in to fill the void, you’re actually cutting off their thought process. Wait a while and make sure they’re not preparing to speak. Another reason is that if you’re both uncomfortable with silence, sometimes you can learn a lot by letting the other person fill it. We often tend to overshare when we want to impress and overcome any sort of awkwardness. We may think that it could be perceived as our fault for not holding up our end of the conversation. This tactic is particularly useful when conducting interviews, managing meetings, or even hosting sales calls. Many a sale has been lost because the salesperson did not know when to shut up. Some people actually like periods of solace and silence in a conversation. Allow for extended periods of silence and just bask in the benefit of being with another person.
When you’re talking, you’re not listening. And listening is the most important thing you can do. Always remember, you cannot learn when your mouth is open.
We have come to the end of our trail today, so I will leave you with four proverbs that deal with talking too much.
Proverbs 10:19, “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.”
Proverbs 17:27, “A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.”
Proverbs 17:28, “Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.”
Proverbs 21:23, “Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble.”