“Sometimes nothing is a good thing to say.”
Years ago I was a board member of a small educational foundation. I had missed a meeting and when I returned had heard that there had been quite a squabble at the last meeting and one of the newer board members had quit.
No one really said much about it and I wanted to hear the story so I decided that I would ask my friend Ed about it after the meeting. He was 20 years older than me and light years more mature. Ed had raised money for the Smithsonian, The World War II Museum and many others. I liked him and I looked up to him too.
After the meeting I asked Ed what had happened in regard to the board member who had quit, frankly thinking I would get some juicy details. He simply said, “I make it a habit never to repeat anything negative.”
That was all he said. No follow up, no explanation, no apology, nothing but that. And I have never forgotten it. After I got past the initial brevity of his reply, I realized this was something to live by. How many times had I said unnecessary negative remarks, in that week alone? Ed’s reply caused me to rethink how I communicate with others. I realized I always felt worse after saying a negative remark and my remarks had the effect of a spark to dry tinder, especially in a group setting. I noticed my comments led to others making negative comments as well. And when I make positive comments that also influences others.
I don’t know about you but for me it is so tempting to say something negative, especially in a humorous way, but it never improves a situation or my mood or that of others.
I also notice that when I resist the temptation to give in to this that I feel a sense of victory. Sometimes I use this question as a test, “Would I like what I say here to be published in the newspaper tomorrow morning for my friends and clients to see?” If not, then I do some of the hardest work a human will ever do, I keep my mouth shut. Because sometimes nothing is a good thing to say.