A Class Act - Part 4

I’m careful about what I say - I think before I speak; I don’t gossip

Your mom probably put it this way, “Watch your mouth!” And you’ve probably heard

“Life and death are in the power of the tongue.”

Words are powerful tools. Used properly they can inspire, encourage, and express things like love, compassion, wisdom, kindness and understanding. And, we’ve all experienced words used by someone to be mean, insulting, backbiting, hateful, vengeful, damaging and abusive. When your words come out, it’s like many other things - it’s all about your intent that can make the difference.

There are many times you’ll want to say something but you know you shouldn’t. There are times when you just blurt out something and you wish you hadn’t. And then, like a lot of us, you’ll think of the perfect thing to say - later. How do you know when to say what? or when just to be quiet? Learning when to speak up and what to say and not say is something you’ll spend a lifetime perfecting.

Part of learning what to say when, and when to say nothing at all is called discretion. You cannot be a class act without using discretion. This can be learned from good role models. Three of our favorite classy characters in the media - who are careful what they say are Frank Ragon in Blue Bloods (CBS), Walt Longmire in Longmire (Netflix) and Perry Mason (Prime Video). Frank Ragon is a Police Commissioner in NYC. Walt Longmire is a sheriff is Wyoming, and Perry Mason is an attorney in LA. All three men are Maverick Men, authority figures and have the power to use their words (and actions) for good or bad. In each case, they are a class act. Check them out. In the meantime...

When you do speak, make it count. A classy person speaks a little and listens a lot.

If you can't say something good, don't say anything at all.

When you’re deciding whether or not to speak out about something - when someone has crossed over the line, when they’ve made you mad, or maybe even hurt your pride... before you speak, ask yourself “What do I hope to accomplish?” Was I just wanting to vent? Do I want this person to hurt like they hurt me? Do I want to affect a change? Will what I have to say to affect that change? If you’re not careful, you could be shooting yourself in the foot by saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. The thing is, about 80% of situations have a predictable outcome. Thinking about possible outcomes ahead of time, allows you to think quickly on your feet, because you’ve already considered several possibilities and their possible outcomes. When in doubt, just keep quiet. It’s your conscience questioning, and not quite sure about what you’re thinking.

Thinking before you speak is the best protection against using words that are condescending, hurtful, or that might set off undesirable consequences you’re not ready or willing to face. Being careful about what you say is putting to use what we learned in the first principle - remembering that it’s not all about me, and treating others the way I want to be treated. A class act is intentional about his words, and uses good judgment in what and when to say something (or act). We call this discretion.

Discretion comes from a desire for the best outcome for the most people. Over time, you can learn from experience when to speak out and when to hold your tongue. Discretion is kin to tact, diplomacy, level-headedness, subtlety, and thoughtfulness.

Of course, being careful what you say also involves what you don’t say.

3 things you should not discuss in public:

1. your love life

2. your finances

3. your next move

A couple other good points regarding what NOT to say as a class act:

  • Avoid finishing other’s sentences

  • Never correct anyone’s grammar. It makes you look like a know-it-all, which irritates others

  • Avoid using profanity or vulgarity in your conversations; it will offend some, so it is better left off.

  • Avoid gossip. If it starts up around you, don’t feed it. Walk away or just be quiet. The same person who is gossiping to you about someone else will gossip to someone else about you. Don’t be a part of it.

  • Avoid discussions when you are angry. Talking about other people and problems when you are angry could create situations that you don’t want. Take a breath and walk away. Talk about it later when you’re cooled off and have had time to think things through. More about this in our next post.

Taking the high road is always preferable when you want to transform yourself into a class act.

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