Think Before You Speak Because You Can’t Hit Rewind

Think Before you Speak words on Road Sign and Stop SignDo you have a loose tongue? Do you open your mouth and start making indiscreet and potentially embarrassing remarks that will come back to haunt you? You can avoid what’s also called “diarrhea of the mouth” by thinking before you speak.

Were They Ever Sorry

Two public figures learned this the hard way. Emil Michael, senior vice president for business for Uber, the ride-hailing company, recently said Uber was considering spying on journalists it considers unfriendly to the company.

He made the classic mistake of thinking his remarks at a private dinner were “off the record.” You know what we advise about off-the-record remarks – don’t make them. Anything you say in public is fair game.

It so happened a journalist from BuzzFeed was at the dinner and quickly reported that Michael said Uber “should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media — and specifically to spread details of the personal life of a female journalist who has criticized the company.”

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick tried to clean up the mess in a series of tweets. He said, “Emil’s comments at the recent dinner party were terrible and do not represent the company.” But the damage was done and added fuel to the company’s growing pile of bad publicity about its service.

Not Good for His Health

Jonathan Gruber, the health economist who helped draft the Affordable Care Act, not only once, not twice, but three times made indiscrete and offensive remarks about the creation of the Act.

He said the process lacked transparency and he got people especially riled up when he called the American public “stupid.” Here is a video with clips of his loose tongue.

Gruber later apologized in public and before a Congressional committee for his remarks. Why do people always say they didn’t mean it after they toss off a thoughtless comment? Of course they meant it. They secretly aren’t sorry they said it. They’re sorry they got caught.

After watching the video, you wonder who the “stupid” one really is.

Avoiding Trouble

So how do you avoid a loose tongue? Think before you speak. Take a breath and gain some time by paraphrasing if you’ve been asked a “squirmer” question. By restating a thought, you reinforce your original message – and avoid saying the wrong thing.

Always remember that once your remarks leave your mouth you can’t reel them back in.

Preparation is essential for any presentation or media interview. Plan your remarks ahead of time and don’t deviate from your script. Have your key messages ready and the evidence to support them.

Hall of Fame NFL football coach Bill Walsh did extensive research on opponents. He would regularly script the first 10-15 offensive plays before the start of each game. He didn’t deviate from his playbook.

You shouldn’t either. If you do and toss off a blooper, you’ll find your foot in your mouth instead of a smile on your face acknowledging a round of applause for your presentation that went off flawlessly.

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