Listen, think before you speak

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 8, 2002

The variations of conversation boggles my mind on a daily basis. It seems the human premonition is to speak and be heard, not to hear others speak. I am guilty of this lack of concentration to other people's conversation. Most modern conversations are filled with assumptions and agitation.

I find myself "waiting in line" for my opportunity to speak in most conversations lately. It is a grave oversight on my part because it means I have not been listening as well as I could be. Take as you will, but I have found that forcing your way into a conversation can lead to problems. Getting your "two cents" is not worth it at certain times. Sometimes you pay two cents to put your own foot in your mouth.

Everyone has the right to speak their mind and most people take full advantage of their rights. We have certain laws in the U.S. that prohibit slander and harassing communications, but people have free reign in the realm of speech for the most part. The separation between right and wrong in the world of speech boils down to individual ethics.

Sometimes speaking your mind can create more trouble than it is worth. Sometimes speaking without thinking can create trouble - especially when it comes to telling a seemingly harmless joke to a group of "friends."

I am sure everyone is familiar with the common phrase, "Silence speaks louder than words." If you take a moment to comb through the past, then I am sure you can find a situation to justify those words. One quick example would be a the silence that sets in after you tell a joke. I run into this problem all the time. I tell a joke that I feel is outrageously hilarious, but no one laughs. No one moves. They only stare. I just don't get it.

I guess it all boils down to one simple truth - what you view as a joke, may not be funny to other people. It is never wise to assume the person will take your words as a jest or a joke. They may still be offended even if they seem to laugh and take it as a joke. Most people would rather avoid confronting you about the issue and making a big scene.

A few steps can be taken in the future to ensure that all conversations run smoothly and seamlessly:

Step number one - never make assumptions during a conversation. Listen to the person's explanation of the situation instead of waiting for your turn to speak. Be open-minded.

Step number two - never presume to know the thoughts of another person. Each person is multi-layered and if you presume to know everything about a person, then you will be caught off guard. Not all surprises are good.

Step number three - treat every conversation, even conversations with old friends, like as a clean slate. It is difficult to know what to expect when a new day dawns. Everything changes - especially minds and hearts. Never make the mistake of thinking things never change. As my favorite poet Robert Frost once said, "Nothing gold can stay."