One of the phrases I hear a lot (more than I should — heard it today) in both private and public conversations is “I really shouldn’t say this, but…” When appropriate, I usually cut the speaker off and respond, “Then don’t.“Looked at even somewhat objectively, it’s a pretty amazing telling measure of our societal pressures and the pull that gossip and the taboo has on our lives. The speaker who begins with such a statement clearly has some sort of check in their own minds about the validity or appropriateness of the topic or comment at hand, and yet still overcomes this conscience with a blurted statement.The same measure applies to:
- Jokes: “I hope you won’t be offended by this…“
- Rumors: “I don’t know if this is true or not…“
- Confidential information: “Joe would kill me if he heard me say this…” or “I was asked not to repeat this, …“
- Anything else: “I may regret this later, but…
I’ll lay off the moral standard for why such things are bad form and stick to the communications standard. If there is a chance we can lose our audience with one statement, then that statement is best left unsaid. The trust and pain these statements cause down the road is another reason to keep our mouths shut. Can we really afford to lose friends, clients, associates, supporters, or even strangers over careless comments?While it’s rather easy to train folks to say the proper things, it’s much more difficult to train folks (and practice myself) to NOT say things.
When in doubt, don’t.