Should You Say It or Remain Silent

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We’ve all said things we wish we could take back. We’ve all said things we later felt uncomfortable about saying, and worried that our words might come back to haunt us. It’s easy to get carried away in the moment and say something you regret.

While being 100% appropriate at all times is an unlikely achievement, you can skew the odds in your favor.

Try these tips to avoid creating unnecessary challenges in your life with ill-chosen words:

  1. Is it honest? Not surprisingly, if what you’re about to say isn’t true, keep it to yourself. Lying is exhausting work. It requires an excellent memory and some good luck to avoid getting caught. Why would you want to say it anyway if it isn’t true? If you’re not being truthful, choose to remain silent.
  2. Is it helpful? Some things are honest, but disagreeable to hear. If what you have to say is divisive, you might want to rethink it. Some people like to create a stir, but it’s not the best motivation for deciding to say something.
  3. Is it abusive? It might be true that your neighbor is fat but telling her will be hurtful. She probably already got the memo on that topic anyway. Saying things with the intention of harming someone isn’t nice, but your mother already taught you that one.
  4. What is your purpose for saying it? What is your intention? Is it to be informational? To make yourself look good? To entertain? To create drama? If you’re not sure if you should say something, ask yourself why you want to say it. Use your values to determine if you should continue.
  5. Is it gossip? Gossip can be interesting to hear and to share, but it’s often a mistake. Talking about others behind their back isn’t kind or polite. It can also come back to haunt you at a later date. Work gossip is especially risky. Besides, once you’re known as a gossiper, you’ll be viewed as untrustworthy.
  6. What is the risk? Consider the worst possible outcome for opening your mouth and allowing your words to be heard. Under the circumstances, what is the worst that can happen? Is it still worth saying?
  7. What do you have to gain? You can’t really assess risk without knowing the upside. What will you potentially gain by speaking your mind? Is that worth the risk? Comparing the potential gain against the potential pain might give you the answer.
  8. Who else is present? Some things are safe to say in certain company, but aren’t with a different crowd present. Consider your audience before speaking.
  9. What will happen if I don’t speak up? Sometimes keeping your thoughts to yourself can be damaging to yourself or to others. Measure the consequences of not sharing.
  10. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut. Arguably, it’s best to take a chance rather than maintain the status quo, but that’s not true when it comes to speaking. If you’re unsure about saying it, keep it to yourself.

Considering how much grief you can cause yourself by saying the wrong thing, thinking before you speak is a good policy to have. Most people have at least one friendship or relationship that’s unsalvageable because of something they said.

In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to let the wrong words fly. It’s also easy to say something foolish in order to impress or to get a laugh.

Save yourself the challenges that come from saying the wrong thing. Think before you speak.

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