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Move your career forward by avoiding ‘Foot-in-Mouth’ disease

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in Human Resources

Issue: All the talent in the world won't help if your mouth works against you.

Risk: A penchant to blurt out inappropriate comments at work can undermine your credibility with employees and the top brass.

Action: Use the following tips to keep your career moving ahead.

You walk back to your office, close the door and slap yourself on the forehead: Why did I say that? What was I thinking?

Such moments are inevitable in the workplace. But if you encounter them too often, your words may be undermining your otherwise-solid skills.

Advice: First, be wary of situations in which you're more likely to say stupid things. Some of the more common settings:

  • You're itching to impress. The CEO asks for your thoughts, so you blurt out whatever is on your mind. You wind up making no sense or pointing out problems without offering solutions. (Solution: Anticipate questions.) 
  • You're playing "topper." Rather than exchanging ideas, you shift into "I'm-better-than-you" mode. (Restrain yourself.) 
  • You're flustered. You're put on the spot and stammer to find the words. (Zip your lips until you regain composure.)

Then, to avoid tripping over your own tongue, take these three steps:

1. Never overreact. When you hear something that upsets you, don't rush to exclaim, "That's insane!" You insult others or lead them to doubt your maturity.

2. Be discreet. Stop yourself before you reveal secrets or discuss delicate information. Ask yourself, "What does this person need to know about this, if anything?"  Before talking about people behind their backs, imagine they are present. Say only what you would to their faces.

3. Don't speculate. If asked for your opinion, state it clearly. Prepare to back it up with evidence. Don't say more than you know.

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