Do any of you ever answer a question that someone poses and instantly regret your answer? I know I have and more than once today. I seem to have no filter when being asked a question. I’m pretty blunt and straight forward and sometimes I forget to think before I open my mouth. It gets me in trouble and while I have worked on it a lot on it over the years, it appears that I need to continue addressing this issue.
I manage a storage facility. One of the many issues that has needed repair has been bushes getting in the way of the gate where I work. I was under the impression that the bush would be removed. My employers got someone to come out and thin it out. The problem? It didn’t appear that much if anything had been done to fix it. Imagine how much of a heel I felt like when I was asked by another employee how it looked and I told her that I couldn’t really tell much difference and I literally heard her get really deflated. That wasn’t my intention. To be fair, I’m at this facility a lot and I know my facility well. I know how quickly the bushes grow and I know the issues the gate has. I applaud the work that they did in the fact that they could only do what they thought they needed to do. But when the work was done after hours and I had no way of knowing this, it’s hard to show someone what needs to be done when other parties who are rarely here, tell them.
That’s just one incident. I’ve ruined surprise parties with a slip of the tongue. A really good friend of mine had a surprise party a few years ago. There was a group of us who were trying not to tell her and we thought we were doing so well until I was on the phone with another friend who needed directions on how to get there. Oops. The girl who was supposed to be surprised was standing around the corner and my big mouth had to let it be heard. I’m still trying to live that one down. I felt horrible. Sometimes we don’t realize what we say until it’s too late. I can’t take back the slip ups. It has made me grow and I will continue to make mistakes with this.
There are always times in our lives that we could have prevented someone from feeling like we just slapped them when that wasn’t our intention. I have always struggled with when to keep my mouth shut and these last few years have come to recognize that it’s imperative to learn this skill. I’ll give you another example of open brain insert foot. There’s a group at my church who don’t like things posted on social media. I have had so many issues with this same group that I finally just said from now on nothing will be posted for them. There won’t be anything going on Facebook or the bulletin. Extreme measures? Maybe. But I’m so tired of hiding from fear that to me if we are a church, we need to act like one. Otherwise, we are coming across as the stereotypical Christians. I have issues with this. I was always raised to treat others the way I’d want to be treated and yet I allow my own humanity to forget this sometimes. When I unknowingly say something whether verbally or through email, I have the power to make a situation better or tarnished.
There’s a woman from my past who I deeply care for. She’s been like a sister to me for years. Recently, she got into several posts online about various issues and she comes across as if she always got to be right on everything. The woman is relentless. After I conceded on what she was arguing about, her husband and daughter jumped in on the conversation as well. It wasn’t even her post. She then got snappy and made a snide comment and all I repeated was that if it was that important to her to be right, then so be it. She didn’t understand that I was tired of fighting. She thinks that I expect favors from her and she’s wrong. What I expected was a little understanding and conceding that there were other versions that varied but she beat the issue to death and so did her family. I finally walked away from the conversation and recognized that she was going to talk about religion on social media but she wasn’t willing to keep a friendship that was forty plus years. That’s on her but sometimes what we say and how we say it has lasting impressions that don’t just dissipate. She didn’t even bother to reach out and say anything to me. Some excuse for a friendship. A little appreciation goes a long way. She still posts about how others treat one another and won’t even take the time to acknowledge her actions. Pot meet kettle.
I have opened my mouth when dating different guys too. It’s taken a lot to grow up and realize that not everyone is out to cause you grief. Sometimes we have to trust our instincts and not listen to the things that our friends communicate with us. Comparing relationships can become a recipe for disaster. No two people are completely alike, and no relationship is the same as someone else’s. It’s a personal journey. Have I talked smack with my friends? Yep. I own that. Am I proud of it? Not always. Has it been something I’ve had to work on? Definitely.
There are three major tools that I’m having to implement in my own life in order to get better about things. Maybe they might help you keep from making some of the same mistakes I have. The first one is to Think Before You Speak. This is really important. I hate to say it but when I don’t think and just let statements come out of my mouth, I come across as a know it all. I’m far from it. In today’s world, we all are walking a serious tightrope with so many different issues. No matter what we do, we have to remember that what we say can come back to bite us in many different ways. The key is to catch yourself before you say something that you’ll regret. For instance, if that person is in front of you, make eye contact with them. Looking someone in the eye can make you more responsible for what you say. If you truly are listening to what they are saying, then paraphrase what you are hearing back to them. Why? Because it enforces the notion that you are hearing them. The words are important too but the tone that words are said with are just as detrimental or healthy as words that are spoken. Sometimes body language speaks volumes to us when words fail. Think about your own actions and the responsibility you bear with those interactions. You can also ask questions when you are dealing with another person. Not only does it show interest but you might learn something if you allow yourself.
Shut your mouth before you open it. This sounds like it could be a funny scene out of a comedy club but it’s true. There are many of us who need to practice shutting it before we allow it to open because once we open our mouths and words come out, the damage is done. Sometimes it can be a very costly statement or conversation.
Last but not least, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How would you feel if what was being said was something that made you feel bad? Look, it’s easy to let things roll off the tongue but we have to remember that we are all people and we all have emotions. Some folks have the ability to tune their emotions out but a vast majority of the population feels things intensely. You know how it made you feel when others said things that hurt you. Start learning from those incidents and change your habits.