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Curbing that quick tongue at work

by on
in Your Office Coach

Question: My problem is my mouth. I tend to say whatever is on my mind without thinking about the consequences. For example, I recently met with one of our top executives. When he asked my opinion of him, I replied, “At first I thought you were a snob, but now you seem OK.”  That was not a good answer. I also said too much in a meeting with my boss’s boss. After describing a problem with one co-worker, I went on to say that all the other women on my team have become less friendly and sometimes talk about me behind my back. I could tell that this was not well-received. Now I feel as though these managers are uncomfortable with me whenever I’m around them.  How can I stop myself from saying too much?” — Motormouth

Marie’s Answer:  Your problem seems to go beyond simply speaking your mind. Try to view the situation objectively and consider the following points:

•    Several of your comments reflect an extreme concern with what others might be thinking about you. In reality, however, most people are probably preoccupied with their own affairs and not focused on you at all.

•    This hypersensitivity can easily lead to faulty assumptions. For example, you seem inclined to give a negative interpretation to others’ behavior, believing that they feel superior or don’t like you.

•    When you combine hypersensitivity with a quick tongue, damaged relationships often result.  To create a filter between your brain and your mouth, practice pausing before you speak.  This will allow you to consciously choose your words. 

For a more balanced outlook, develop the habit of questioning your negative conclusions about others. See Improving Your "Self-Talk" for some specific tips.  But if these patterns seem to be deeply entrenched, you may wish to consult a professional counselor.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

sdh February 6, 2010 at 9:59 pm

My boss says I interupt a lot of the time. I don’t fell that I am. I stand outside of her door if I have a question or a phonecall for her. Most places supervisors are able to look up or ask “what do you need”? My coworker is able to do this with her – but not me. It is frustrating. Also my coworker likes to micromanage me even though she is the office secretary. She drives me nuts. I’ve been nothing but nice to both of them. My boss called a meeting with hr due to the fact I told her it seemed like my coworker ran the office. She was not willing to givwe up duties that corporate told me I’d be doing and my boss didn’t want to rock the boat if nothing was broken. A big cluster–ck. HR came in and I told them all of above and the many things both of them have said/done and the meeting went so well for me! HR told them that I would be doing this and this and this…..hahahhahahahhahahhahhaha!!!!
It was like Christmas!

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sdh February 6, 2010 at 9:51 pm

bite me!

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Anonymous December 2, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Tasha,

Instead of thinking of a quick response to what others are saying/doing, why not adopt an attitude of curiosity instead?

Sometimes we all think we know what a person means or is going to say next, but that’s really not fair to the other person.

Each person is an individual — please be generous enough to give them that.

Then, when you want to come back with a quick retort, try coming back with a question instead. (Not a snarky one, either. A sincere attempt to go a little deeper with them and get them to explain what is behind their original comment.)

You’ll have your chance to speak, too. But, remember, timing is everything.

Good luck!

P.S. EQ most definitely *CAN* be learned!

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Philly-EA August 21, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Tasha, it’s too bad that your original post was edited, as what you wanted to ask wasn’t exactly what was presented in the column. I agree with OfficeGal, that it’s quite possible your superiors are “on edge” about what you’ll say next, which will made it very difficult for you to gain their trust and improve your relationship with them. But the only way to gain their trust and improve your relationship will be for you to learn to control your mouth, so that’s why we’re all coming back to that point.

The old idea of “counting to 10″ really CAN be very helpful – if you re-train yourself to wait before responding, you should soon find that because you’ve reasoned out what you want to say, people will be more likely to listen to you and take you seriously. Christina’s THINK system is good, too – I’ve never run across that one, and although it might seem a bit hard to apply in a business setting (“inspirational” might not always be what’s called for, e.g.), it certainly has its merits.

And finally, in my experience most people appreciate a good listener much more than a big talker – if you can really strive to clamp down on the instinctive response, which is getting you into trouble with your co-workers and your superiors, and can try instead to be a more patient responder and committed listener, you’ll probably be amazed at what a change it will be for you. Good luck!

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Marie McIntyre August 20, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Hi Tasha-
Because I did not have your email address, I couldn’t send a personal reply and had to address your question in the column. Due to space limitations, we do have to edit long questions and cannot always address all the issues raised. However, if you will email me at mmcintyre@yourofficecoach.com , I will be most happy to answer the question about how to deal with your superiors. All the best – Marie

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Christina August 20, 2009 at 11:28 am

Jason you might be right about EQ, but I don’t give up easily and btw I am sure that I suffer saying the wrong things and take way too many things personally.

If you recognize the problem and you really want to change try the following:

Take the time spell T.H.I.N.K. before you speak, this is time to measure what you are about to say and if doesn’t pass the five criteria listed below then just don’t say it.

Is it true and timely.
Is it helpful
Is it inspirational
Is it necessary
Is it kind

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Kellygirl August 20, 2009 at 8:30 am

Tasha: We currently have the exact situation with an employee who continiously speaks without thinking and the ramifications of her actions are far reaching, as she is a therapist. We believe her problem comes from fear, low self-worth and anger, and yes, she needs her own therapist to work throught these things with her so that she can be a respectable/respected woman. If you want your fellow employees/ superiors to interact with you, you first must earn their respect by behaving respectably. And more importantly, with this change you will learn to respect yourself.

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OfficeGal August 19, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Tasha,
Most likely, your superiors currently dread what you are going to say and are constantly on edge. If I were your superior, it would just take time for me to realize that you had curbed your tongue, and over time, the more times you carry on polite and appropriate conversations with them, the more they will trust you and enjoy talking to you.
I have a coworker who does the same thing and says inappropriate things at very inappropriate times. People dread talking to her and are always worried what will come out of her mouth next. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize that she has a problem. At least you recognize that you have that problem, so you can be more conscious of it and make steps to change!

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Tasha Washington August 19, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Michelle, thanks for the reply. I have learned that when posting questions, someone rewrite the question and then post it. The message the rewritten article sends isn’t the original message that I’ve sent. I actually heard people talking I didn’t assume they were talking which the article indicates. I also wanted to know how do I build a relationship with the superiors whom are now uncomfortable with me.

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Tasha Washington August 19, 2009 at 12:48 pm

I am the original author of the article “curbing that quick tounge at work”. My concern and question is how to I build a better relationship with my superiors whom are now uncomfortable when they are around me?

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Michelle August 19, 2009 at 12:45 pm

You may want to seek couseling. If you do this at work, my guess is that you also do it in your personal life. There may be an underlying reason and counseling may help you understand why you do it and may give you assistance in helping you stop. Because it REALLY must stop.

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Jason August 19, 2009 at 12:37 pm

The quick tongued person can’t be taught emotional intelligence you either have it or you don’t.

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