Even if you’re offended, try not to let the interaction escalate. Not allowing your feelings to dictate your words will impact your quality of life profoundly: You will get what you want more often. By focusing on what you want to accomplish instead of what you want to say, your goal—and the underlying relationship—can survive for another conversation.
Stop constantly defending your beliefs. Standing up for your convictions has been the American way since the Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776. And yes, you should speak up when you feel your own or someone else’s well-being is being threatened. But even though others might label you a wimp for keeping your mouth shut, you don’t have to rise to every challenge. Even though your brother-in-law’s political rants on Facebook make your blood boil, you don’t have to comment on why you disagree with each and every post.
Too much impulsive disclosure and reflexive communication can upset the people who are most important to your work and personal life. Am I suggesting that we should abandon the Internet, stop posting anything on social media, and never talk about the things we believe in? Of course not. All I’m recommending is some good old-fashioned caution.
Ask yourself which is more important to you: throwing your two cents in or maintaining a decent relationship? And be especially careful on Facebook and Twitter because there are many more deeply held beliefs to consider. Play your cards closer to the vest. Failure to exercise caution around sensitive topics can lead to a relational explosion.
It’s like Kenny Rogers sang in “The Gambler”: “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” The fact is, there are times when refusing to back down only ends up hurting you, while giving ground and showing weakness can help you to end up, later, in a strong position. So don’t let go of valor entirely—but make sure discretion is the better part of it.
Geoffrey Tumlin is the author of Stop Talking, Start Communicating: Counterintuitive Secrets to Success in Business and in Life. He is the founder and CEO of Mouthpeace Consulting LLC, a communication consulting company; president of On-Demand Leadership, a leadership development company; and founder and board chair of Critical Skills Nonprofit, a 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to providing communication and leadership skills training to chronically underserved populations. His writing on communication and leadership has appeared in scholarly journals, newspapers, and textbooks, including Discourse Studies, the International Leadership Journal, the Encyclopedia of Leadership, the Austin American-Statesman, and five editions of Professional Communication Skills.
About the Book: Stop Talking, Start Communicating: Counterintuitive Secrets to Success in Business and in Life (McGraw-Hill, August 2013, ISBN: 978-0-0718130-4-4, $20.00) is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and at www.tumlin.com.