The consequences of not thinking before you speak
Growing up I was always told to think before I speak. For years I felt I should aspire to be able to do it. I used to feel not thinking before speaking was a weakness and wished I could change.
If it was a weakness, it was sometimes helpful. As an undergraduate I went for an interview where we sat in a group, with two observers, and were asked to talk about Scottish tourism for 15 minutes. I had no opinions about Scottish tourism but I’m a gobby shite and the test suited me perfectly. It must have done, because I got the job.
In my first job after qualifying, I fell into a close working relationship with someone who did think before he spoke. On learning that this person’s wife was pregnant, I asked him how he felt about becoming a father. He pondered the question and replied about the need to weigh the pros and cons of having children. I thought, ‘Poor kid, having such a boring dad’. After an initial effort to fit in with this sort of colleague I decided I was just going to be true to myself and hang the consequences. However, when I made that decision I didn’t know all the consequences.
I’m a fairly excitable character. I tend to speak with energy and enthusiasm. I’m talkative but will yield the floor to a more talkative person and will generally be quiet in unfamiliar situations. This combination of character traits works well and allows me to make my arguments with some force but it does, occasionally, have some negative consequences:
1) Not appearing to listen very generously. If you are too quick to speak people assume you haven’t listened, even if you have.
2) Coming over as confrontational. I quite enjoy conflict. It feels more real to me than the typical polite meeting, but many people don’t like conflict. Speaking too quickly will make these people think you are being argumentative.
3) Arguing with incomplete thoughts. Thinking in real time rather than before you speak means you run the risk of running out of steam halfway through your argument, which significant weakens the impact.
Sometimes not thinking before you speak can mean people find you too pushy and may not like you as a result. That I can live with. What I didn’t realise when I decided to be my authentic self is that, years later, I might lose out on a promotion I was keen on because I was seen as not having the temperament for a senior position.
Had I known the full consequences of my decision, I might still have reached the same conclusion but I think it more likely I would have made greater use of the pause, and matured a bit quicker.