Be Careful What You (Don’t Know You) Say

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.

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by Thad on May 10, 2012 · 15 comments

in life,values

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  • Jen @ Master the Art of Saving

    I say stupid stuff all the time, I’m one of those people who doesn’t think before they speak. I’m working on it though. :-)

    • Thad

      I continue to learn about myself, Jen! Sounds like you are too.

  • Pam at MoneyTrail

    “Speaker” phone features are dangerous! I have put my foot in my mouth a few times.

    • Thad

      Yep! And anything that others can read anywhere (like Facebook or Twitter).

  • bogofdebt

    I’ve learned the hard way that not only do I say things out loud without meaning too I also say things that only make sense to me. I know what I mean but others will misinterpret very easily because obviously they aren’t in my head. I try to pause between thinking something and saying it out loud–this helps gather my thoughts and I make sure I can say what I actually mean. It also clears up a lot of misinterpertation.

    • Thad

      Those are great steps to avoid the kind of problem I found myself in. Thankfully that was about the worst of the worst and hasn’t been repeated.

  • Anthony Thompson

    This certainly brings back memories of those times when I opened my mouth and said stuff that I shouldn’t have. In fact, who haven’t done this? And, the worse part is there never a do-over. What’s done is done, and I learned this the hard way. Now, whenever I feel the need to say anything, I do a head check first to make sure that it’s safe to say it. If it is, then I’ll say it and do so with tact. If it’s not, I’ll keep my mouth shut.

    • Thad

      I like the “head check” idea.

  • Jason

    I pretty sure I say something stupid every day. lol. I definitely need to work on it!

    Be quick to listen, slow to speak.

    • Thad

      Proverbs sure has lessons for today!

  • Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter

    I have done this numerous times in my relationships and with family. Luckily I haven’t done it at work. That would have been way worse.

    In the past my family has just pushed my buttons and they would set me off. I would react to everything and so would they. Not a good situation. I have learned now to pause and not react which has helped me huge. They still have some things to work on though.

    • Thad

      Sounds like you have learned a valuable lesson. I’m still learning, unfortunately.

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