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. When that is the case, you must think before saying anything. This does not mean uncomfortable, long silences before responding. Instead, it means you need to plan for important conversations, negotiations or presentations, and to think on your feet.

This can be difficult in emotionally charged situations. But those are the type of situations when patience is most required.

This was brought home to me recently 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, I can only assume, without thinking about 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 that this was obvious to the judge and that 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 case to lose its shine. The judge has not issued a ruling yet, but I think it is likely that that the attorney’s failure to think before speaking, let alone not letting the judge finish his question, probably 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. And if you do answer, think before the words come out of your mouth. If you do these things, there is a much 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.