Keeping Our Mouths Closed

HitchWe all know people who say whatever comes to their mind, no matter the circumstances, no matter the consequences. When we are around these people, we can sometimes sense the disaster getting ready to happen – and then bam – out comes an inappropriate comment, or an overbearing opinion, or worse yet, a series of outrageous and inflammatory thoughts or judgments that should have remained introspections left to be unheard outside of the echoed chambers of their brains. It’s enough to make you shudder and cringe while in contemplation hours, even days later. Some people, on the other hand, employ filters to soften the blow of their harsh ruminations, or shut doors to quickly trap a potentially explosive opinion that wants to burst out of their mouths; one that might cause deep embarrassment to the receiver and regret by the giver. Still other people have mastered the art of communication – especially that of verbal containment.

I think for most of us, saying things we shouldn’t – in content or timing – doesn’t happen that often. When it does, we are quickly reminded just how far down our throats our feet can go. Usually anger precipitates a lack of lingual judgment, but sometimes our mouths opening wide and spilling forth is simply just a case of our brains working slower than our gums. I have kicked myself far too often for not keeping my mouth shut, and thus I admire people whose composure appears almost Zen-like while in the act of maintaining presence of mind and discipline of tongue.

I’ve often wanted to take back an ill-timed statement. Who hasn’t? The problem is, you can never take back the spoken word. Moreover, in today’s immediately archived, social-media dominated world, you can never really take back the written word either. Whether in business or in our personal lives, saying or writing the wrongs things can be disastrous. We can do real damage with quick, careless, thoughtless words, posts, comments or emails. For most of us, the occasional trip over our tongue accident is just that, an accident; and we can usually find forgiveness or acceptance of our infrequent stumbles. If accidents of this type become patterns – especially if we have no sense of awareness – havoc and disaster will follow us wherever we go.

Stay aware, practice foot-in-mouth abstinence, and control the flow – especially in potentially charged and consequential circumstances.

Here are a few movie quotes that come to mind…

“You never open your mouth until you know what the shot is.” –Al Pacino in Glen Gary Glen Ross

“There are words better unheard, better unsaid.” –Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables

“I saw that going differently in my mind.” –Will Smith in Hitch

“Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking.” –Ray Bolger in The Wizard of Oz