Sometimes, the route from the brain to the mouth is like riding a bullet train.
Take me, for example. I was meeting with a couple for the first time and the husband mentioned that he wanted to be flexible when it came to spending time with the kids. “Flexible?” I said, “That’s my second-favorite F-word!” I instantly regretted my comment and began wracking my brain in case they wanted to know my first-favorite F-word. I quickly decided to say “food” or “football.” Thankfully, they didn’t ask!
I find that when I’m most comfortable around people, the distance between my thoughts and my words is negligible. And sometimes, that’s not the best option. How can I teach myself to quickly gauge the situation before I open my mouth?
Psychologists define blurting as a specific kind of spontaneous speech that has negative repercussions. I’d like to add that it’s often a remark made in haste that we wish we could take back. Sometimes, blurting can be an unedited angry remark, and other times (as in my example above), it’s an inappropriate witticism.
We’re all guilty of blurting from time to time. And while some people think the first thing that comes to mind is your real truth, it’s often not. For instance, when you were a kid, did you ever say “I hate you” to your mom? I’m going to guess that you didn’t actually hate your mom. Instead, you probably hated the fact that she didn’t allow you to do something you really wanted to do. Now that we’re adults, it’s likely that a planned response is actually more authentic, more the real truth, than blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.
We tend to do most of our blurting out during an argument, so the anti-blurting solution might start by changing our attitude about heated conflict. Instead of viewing an argument as an adversarial conversation, what if you redefined it as an opportunity to understand the other person’s ideas and together develop a solution?
You also might want to take a look at the bigger picture and focus on your long-term goals. This is a very adult thing to do, isn’t it? The child who says “I hate you” to the parent is simply living in the moment and actually hating the fact that they can’t go to the mall with their friends. The adult is looking at the bigger picture. Maybe it’s almost dark out and it wouldn’t be safe to let kids walk to the mall by themselves.
Seeing the bigger picture in grown-up land might involve a better work environment, or a better relationship with a neighbor. It might be a sincere effort to be nicer to your spouse, or to try to remember what it was like to be a teenager.
If you could do one thing today to slow the roll from your brain to your mouth, would you want to? If so, what would you do?