Just because the thought comes into your head does not mean it should come out of your mouth. In many situations, it matters what you say next. This is why it’s so important to think before speaking. It doesn’t mean uncomfortable long silences, but it means you need to plan for important conversations, negotiations, or presentations. It also means you need be able to think on your feet.
This can be difficult in emotionally charged situations. But those situations require the most thought and patience.
This was brought home to me a few years ago when an opposing attorney answered a judge’s question too fast and before the judge had finished his question. In doing so, the attorney not only failed to answer the question the judge actually asked, he blurted out information that the judge later used against his other arguments. This really happened.
After speaking too fast and, apparently, without fully thinking through what he was saying, grasping for an answer, it became obvious the attorney was arguing two sides of the coin. It probably will not shock you this was obvious to the judge. It caused the issue on which the attorney had a weak case to look like a failure and the issue on which he had a slightly better argument to lose its shine. The attorney’s failure to think before speaking, let alone not letting the judge finish his question, lost his client any chance of succeeding on either of his positions.
Don’t let this be you. Always plan for important conversations, negotiations, or presentations. If you are not sure of an answer to a question, it is better to admit that. If you do answer, think before speaking. If you do these things, there is a better chance your conversations will go well and you will avoid putting your foot in your mouth.
And, it should go without saying, let people finish their thought or question before responding. If your mouth is open your ears are shut.