Have you ever said something aloud that you didn’t mean to say aloud? Did it make a tense situation worse? I sure have done it, and it has made me wonder if too many of the things I say in my head get heard via my lips inadvertently.
Let me illustrate.
7 or 8 years ago I was coaching a middle-school boy’s basketball team with my wife (she is the real coach in the family, having coached at one level or another since the 80s).
We were in a tight game with our biggest rival, and as we were headed down the final minutes. The lead had changed hands back and forth the entire game, with neither team able to get any kind of comfortable margin.
After a ball was thrown out of bounds, I called a time-out for our team. The referees stopped play, but said that we had already used our last timeout at an earlier point in the quarter.
The problem was, while there had been a timeout at that earlier point, it was the opposing team that had taken it. The scorers table had mistakenly charged us with the timeout. If we had used up all our timeouts, and I had called one, we would have been charged with a bench technical foul. That would have given the other team a free throw, and the ball out of bounds.
So, as we worked it out with the bench as to which team had called the earlier timeout, my wife and I appealed to the other coach, whom we had known through coaching. When he heard us about to be called for a technical, he had a “I don’t know what they are talking about” (regarding the earlier timeout).
When I saw the other coach with the “I don’t know what they are talking about” look on his face, I thought I was saying to myself: “Aw, don’t lie about it”.
The problem? I actually said it out loud!
But not only did I say it loud enough for my team to hear it, I said it loud enough for the other coach to hear it.
And, to put it mildly, the other coach blew up. He started yelling at me, and charged toward me as if he was going bash my head in (he didn’t).
Truth is, I deserved all the flack I got that afternoon. While I hadn’t intended on saying that aloud, I did. And though I really believe he was attempting to put us at a disadvantage by not being truthful, I did myself and our team no good by saying aloud what never should have been uttered.
It’s a hard lesson to learn (that things I say might cause conflict). It’s even harder to keep from doing it. All of us are emotional beings, and sometimes our emotions rush out without restraint.
Most people do not cause conflict by too few words, but by too many. What I learned that afternoon, and which I still am learning, is to engage my brain before I engage my mouth. I need to be careful what I (don’t know I) say.
It makes for better relationships that way, whether at work, at school or at home.
Have you done something equally as unwise as I did that day? Why not share it with us so we can all learn and perhaps not do something as stupid in the future.