Which works faster, your tongue, your finger or your brain?

Leaders and public figures are frequently called on to offer an opinion on some or other matter. Depending on their role, the level of their exposure may be confined to their team or department, or may reach further – to their company or the country. You would think that anyone offering an opinion which they know will be heard or read by others would give thought to what they say before they say it. You would however be mistaken.

Not many have mastered the skill of allowing their brains to work before their tongues or, in the case of smses and tweets, their fingers.

It seems such a basic principle of leadership, corporate or public communication that you should think before you speak but, judging by the comments made by an increasing number of public figures, this principle is not so basic after all.

This inability of the brain to work faster than the tongue or the fingers can lead to much embarrassment or worse because, as British actress Dame Helen Mirren so aptly put it, “The whole concept of privacy has gone.”

That means that all comments and statements made by you over the phone, in an sms or email or spoken or written by you should be carefully considered before being made. Quite simply, if you are in any form of management or leadership position, you should be prepared for everything you say, write or do whether in your professional or personal capacity to be aired in a public forum and forums which you never necessarily intended it to be seen and heard in.

If you, then, for example, as a former director of a bank that’s imploded, are asked for a comment about the bank’s demise, it’s not a good idea to use four letter words when describing your view of the poor and their plight, no matter how much you want to impress people with your new found wealth.

And it’s of very little use issuing an apology some time afterwards, muttering about the interview giving the impression that you didn’t care for the poor (although one would battle to find any other impression such a comment would give) when you get to hear that people weren’t as impressed by your comments as you thought they would be.

Your and my credibility is wrapped up in what we do, write or say. Surely, then, we should pay careful attention to what we say before we say it?

All leaders and public figures should remember the cardinal rule: you can never “unsay” something once it’s been said.

There’s a need for us to get back to saying what we mean and meaning what we say, to taking responsibility for our comments and not trying to explain them away or give a different interpretation to them when everybody knows what we actually said and meant.

If you want to be respected as  someone of substance and integrity, I encourage you to train your brain to work faster than your tongue and fingers. In fact, I encourage you to train it to also work faster than your heart so that you don’t allow your emotions to influence what you say either.

When you say what you you intend to say, you never have to duck and dive when confronted with your own words. You can take responsibility for them because you said what you intended to say.

Such people, such leaders, such public figures win the trust and respect of others!

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