Think Before You Speak

Sometimes what comes out of our mouth can be very helpful or very harmful to others and our success. Choose carefully what you say.

I know I’m not alone with this issue. I have a tendency to say what I think at the absolute worst times. I mean, you are talking to a woman who has a sharp tongue at times. I get accused and rightfully so, of being sarcastic, quick witted, and direct. Many times it gets me into trouble. Overall, I really don’t like games and I’m the first to tell you that. I’m not one to complain about regular games like card games, puzzle games, etc., but when you start playing games with people’s heads, emotions, and professions, I will stand up against it.

I met a very interesting woman yesterday. She used to be the Director for an International Hebrew Academy that was located in the same city I work in. They have closed now due to finances but she told many different interesting stories of her teachings and also about Israel. We spoke of the food that is prominent in her culture. I found it fascinating and without even thinking I blurted out that most American dishes in restaurants had cut back on their food portions. This started a whole new discussion. We found that we agreed on many different issues, especially where grocery stores and other places had reduced the size of their products but still charging the same price. I found a kindred spirit in her and am looking forward to more communication with her. This was one instance that I’m glad my mouth spoke before my brain.

There are a lot of different scenarios we all encounter where we should think before we speak. For instance, if someone is antogonizing you, should you spout off at the mouth and egg the situation on? Or should you be the better person and have thought through how you should have handled it and then let the other individual present themselves as the fool? I don’t know about most of you but I don’t like to eat crow. No. I’m not talking literally because I wouldn’t eat crow. I don’t like the idea of eating birds. I’m talking metaphorically. The movie Blindside has a line in it I will never forget. Tim McGraw asked Sandra Bullock in the characters they played, “How did that taste?” Her response? “Like Vinegar.” I think most of us can relate.

I’ve done really embarrassing things. I’ve opened my mouth and said things that in hindsight, if I could take back, I would. It doesn’t work that way. I’ve lied in the past when I should have told the truth. My heart was in the right place but my actions didn’t always reflect my intent. My words would cut someone when I didn’t think about the repercussions. Even though I did things in the past I’m not proud of, it helped teach me that if we don’t use intention when we speak, then quite often, we are appearing to be uneducated, unopen, and unwilling to present ourselves as someone that others may want to emulate. Being quiet to me, was constantly being in a state of ennui. At times, I could be very ostentatious without even realizing it. It took me a very long time to ascertain the need for attention.

Here are some things in my life that happened and why I caution others to be careful about what you say and how you say it. A couple of years ago, a very dear friend of mine told me that he had developed feelings for me. I had feelings for someone else. He tricked another friend of mine into not showing up for dinner one night and he and I dined alone. It was then that he had shown up in a suit, took me to dinner, I ended up paying the bill, and he sat there, looked me in the eye, told me he had been dreaming about me, and that he saw a future with me. I was stunned. This was a person that I didn’t share those feelings for and didn’t want to hurt him. I told him that my heart was taken. Even if that person wasn’t willing to have me as a part of his life, it wouldn’t be fair to him for me to get involved with him knowing I didn’t reciprocate his feelings. Not long after that he found excuses to be near me. I finally broke down and told him that it wasn’t going to happen. I don’t like to be a mean person but my temper can often times get to where the words that fall from my lips can be venomous. Two months later he was dead. He died before his fortieth birthday. My heart sank. The last conversation we had was short. He wanted something I couldn’t give him and diabetes had won against his body. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him.

One of the last conversations that my dad had with me before he died was that I was a disappointment to him. For those who didn’t know my dad, he had been an ardent supporter of me and my biggest cheerleader my entire life. Then Dad got a brain tumor. He was ravaged by it fairly quickly. His tumor caused him to lose his voice. The few times he was able to speak, he said things that to this day, I won’t understand until it’s my time to cross. He would say things like “If you could see what I see”, and “Chris, you are a disappointment. ” i know in my heart that my dad would never have said that to me if it wasn’t for the cancer. But I will always remember what was said out of his mouth. Dad couldn’t relay what he was really thinking because the cancer had muddled his thoughts.

In the world today, bullying has become one of the top problems we face. Words matter. They can be used as weapons for both good and evil.

I’ve struggled most of my life with confidence. For the longest time I was a very shy person. I still am in some things and in others I’ve taken a screw it mentality. Life is too short to not try your best and I don’t want to be someone who isn’t heard. My opinions, your opinions, everyone, – we are all important. We all have a voice. Sometimes we don’t think about how that voice comes across. It’s very difficult to know how someone will interpret the things that we say. In today’s world, we have to be more mindful than ever because anything that does come out of our mouth has ramnifications. Gone are the days that if you say something it’s your word against someone else. Now we have cameras and recording devices that record us many times without our knowledge. Sometimes things we say in confidence or even in anger can be used against us especially if someone else wants to place blame. Privacy is becoming unheard of. Even one’s thoughts are becoming under scrutiny. Our context of language has become such a hot topic that people are afraid to voice how they feel because if the opposition doesn’t support it, that person is berated. In all my years of life, I can honestly attest to the fact that politics has gotten so bad that both sides come out swinging and the truth is that the issues that need to be dealt with can’t be. It’s become such a hot issue that families have been divided over candidates. Some of thoses families have had heated discussions because they didn’t agree with each other.

It’s also important not to just let things come out of our mouths that sound like unjust criticism. It’s so easy to criticize someone or something. But did you ever stop to think that something may have happened to cause problems for a person or place? I had another customer yesterday who came in and she was talking about pesticides and how they are so damaging to all of us. Then out of the blue, her mouth dripped with statements like “people on the road are filled with so much rage that I’m afraid to say anything to them for fear of being shot.” She rambled off a lot more comments that I’m not really sure what direction she was trying to take the conversation in and then proceeded to change the subject in other areas.

As a whole, we are often criticized for what we say and how we say it. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all under a microscope. Here are a few ways to help all of us remember to think before we speak.

  1. Think about your own actions. I had a situation earlier that I could have handled better but the customer wasn’t listening to what I was saying and I had to repeat myself multiple times. I started getting agitated and it came through in my voice. I recognized it later and realized that I needed to work on my annoyance level.
  2. Recognize your environment. This is really important because many times the areas we are in play a huge part of how we react. When I’m in a hospital or a busy setting, I’m much more tense. I don’t want to be there and I’m always afraid of what infections I’m bringing home. In many ways, hospitals are confining to me. I don’t make a good patient. In fact, being the daughter of a nurse has been more of an issue because I’m aware of many different aspects of healthcare. I know the good stories as well as the horror stories and that knowledge doesn’t always help me when my anxiety level heightens.
  3. Observe what’s being said and the tone in which it’s used. Many of us just rattle things off without thinking of how it comes across. Pay attention to what’s around you. Try not to let anxiety be the reason that you snap. Stay calm. Focus. You’ve got this.
  4. Watch others. No. I don’t mean creepy like. I just mean watch how others interact. See who does the better job and try to follow suit. Look, we all know how we want to be treated. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Recognizing what others do can be a huge step in solving problems before they start.
  5. Consider all factors and information. Knowledge is power and when we all focus on what we can do better, we are more inclined to make the necessary changes. I can come across very snippy if I don’t watch it. My goal is to make others feel comfortable and to enjoy their experiences. If you see someone is having a rough day, don’t add to it if you can help it. None of us know what each other is dealing with in our personal lives. Sometimes the tipping point is something we inadvertently do.

The biggest thing is to just be considerate. If you need to give someone a tongue lashing, make sure that you are in the right. Sometimes we vent just because we can. It doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. It just means that we needed to vent. I’ve been venting a lot more to myself lately. Not just because I don’t want to drag my friends down, but because I really don’t want to take something out on them when they have enough to deal with.

There’s always going to be a time and place for things. The main thing is to remember that those times and places are not always chosen well. Truly think before you speak. You never know how the reactions will be. In this world today, everything is sensitive. Let’s make each day more positive and well spoken.

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