Hey You - Watch Your Mouth!
by Chris Widener
Do you remember the first time you used a little “blue” language as a child…
and your mother caught you? I do!
“Hey You - Watch Your Mouth!”
Maybe you got a quick swat or the bar of soap in your mouth? The results
varied from person to person, but what is interesting to me is why our parents
reacted they way they did and the lesson there is for us today.
Isn’t it true that the main reason parents react to the improper use of
the mouth is because certain language is not only improper, but brings about
bad results? If you use that kind of language in the first grade for example,
uh, like I used to, you are surely to be removed from class.
The principle: The words of your mouth produce results.
This is a lesson for us as adults as well.
There is an old proverb that says, “The tongue has the power of life and
death.” This is a universal truth!
Have you ever thought about the way you use your mouth and the results that
you see from it? Now, I am not saying that your words have some sort of mystical,
magical power. I am talking about how the words you use affect both you and
the others around you, which in turn produces results in your life, either
positive or negative.
Here are some examples of ways people sabotage themselves with their mouths
and some ways to reverse that trend and create success for yourself. (A note:
While this article deals with very practical ideas, I also want to say that
my overriding theory of why we shouldn’t speak in bad ways is because people
have inherent value and are to be honored no matter who they are. So, while
I give practical reasons for speaking in right ways, the overriding reason
to do so is based not on what we get out of it, but because it is the right
thing to do.) With that said, here are the major problems people have with
This may be one of the most ubiquitous problems there is. People telling
other people another person’s business. And it usually isn’t very good.
Very rarely does anyone pass along “good gossip.”
The Result: Have you ever found out that someone passed along information
about you? How did you feel? Exactly my point. Did you want to do business
with them? Did you want to help them? Again, exactly my point. Stay away
from the harmful effects of gossip, first for the other person’s sake, but
ultimately for yours.
The Antidote: Never pass along gossip. If that person wants others
to know, they will tell them. If you start a sentence with, “Did you hear
about…” chances are that you are walking on the edge. Watch your mouth!
Rumors are even worse (if it can be so) than gossip because the person doesn’t
even know if the information is true. Rumors are entirely reckless and do
The Result: If you think people will dislike you, and stand in the
way of your success, because of gossip, imagine how they will feel when
they find out you were passing along untrue information about them! You
will lose your friends pretty quickly.
The Antidote: If you choose to never gossip then you will never pass
along rumors either, which is good! Make it your policy to only speak good
of others, especially when speaking to others about people. The old saying
is true: If you don’t have anything good to say about someone, don’t say
anything at all! In other words - Watch your mouth!
It is strange to me how parents teach their children to always tell the
truth but many of them have for themselves a skewed understanding of what
it means to tell the truth. The average person feels it is okay to sometimes
lie. The only problem with this is that lying, for whatever reason, can
only do one thing: Break trust.
The Result: People will not trust you. They will wonder if you are
telling the truth. They will stay away from you when they know they need
to count on someone. But even worse in my mind is that you will not be able
to trust yourself. When we lie we teach ourselves that we are not trustworthy.
The other person may never know, but we will. And ultimately that hurts
us and stands in the way of our success.
The Antidote: Always tell the truth. I know what some of you are
thinking: ALWAYS? Yes, always. But what if someone doesn’t like what I have
to say? I didn’t say you have to be a jerk, but being an adult means developing
relationships wherein you can tell the truth to someone, in a respectful
way, and still have a relationship. So yes, commit to speaking the truth
to people at all times. If it is a tough situation, then do it with even
more respect. Or, an alternative is to simply say, “I don’t feel comfortable
talking about this.” In all things - Watch your mouth!
- Put downs.
Most normal people aren’t too bad at blatant put downs. Where I see more
of a problem is the back-handed compliment. Or the behind the back put down.
But still there are people who have no problem speaking in tones and words
that put down others and degrade them, for whatever reason.
The Result: When you are a person who regularly puts down others,
people will have the same reaction: The will run, not walk, from you. People
simply do not want to be around others who speak this way. And they will
not only not help you along, they will, out of their hurt, actively oppose
your advancement. So if you want to cut your success short, speak ill of
The Antidote: Only speak good of others. If they have a negative
point, focus instead on the good points. Talk about their strengths, not
their weaknesses. Tell them what is good about them, not what is bad about
them. Watch your mouth!
I am always amazed at what I call “Poor-mouthing.” Rich people do it. Poor
people do it. This is when you talk about how poor you are and why you can’t
afford anything. The actuality that I have found is that those who poor
mouth CAN afford what they are talking about, they just don’t want to.
The Result: When people poor-mouth, a few things happen. First, you
confirm your poverty mentality. This hurts you. Second, people begin to
be disgusted by you, especially if they know how much you make and they
think you should be able to afford it. They will begin to roll their eyes
at you and disrespect you. I know what it means to not have much money.
Fresh out of college my wife and I didn’t make much. We decided to never
say that we couldn’t afford something. If we really couldn’t, we just didn’t
mention anything at all. The last thing I wanted was for someone to start
playing the violins for my sob story.
The Antidote: Don’t talk about how you can’t afford something. What
would you be trying to accomplish anyway? If you can’t afford something,
keep quiet. Now you may ask what to do if you are invited to something and
you can’t afford it. Respectfully decline. You don’t owe anyone an excuse.
Just apologize and say that you will be unable to attend but that you hope
to do something with them in the near future. Keep positive and watch your
You know the type. Every sentence begins with “I….” The guy whose middle
name is “Let me tell you a story about myself.” The woman who has to top
every story of yours. After a while all you hear is “Blah, blah, blah.”
Bragging is usually based in insecurity and most people don’t even know
they are doing it. That is unfortunate.
The Result: Braggers usually have a few different results. One, people
try to cut them down to size. Two, they avoid them. Three, they may sit
there looking attentive but are inside of their minds making plans for the
weekend. It is all they can do to keep their eyes from rolling back in their
The Antidote: Humility. Start as few sentences as possible with “I.”
Let somebody else’s story be the best one. Ask questions about other people
for a change. If they try to turn the conversation onto you, turn it back
on to them! Don’t brag - watch your mouth!
Not much needs to be said here. We all know what this is. I am still surprised
by how many people cuss and even in a business situation. In my mind, it
simply is intolerable. I don’t know why someone would cuss anymore than
tell an off-color joke, but they do.
The Result: People cringe. More than that, cussing makes people question
your judgment. A boss will wonder whether or not you are going to offend
someone when he sends you on a sales call. Or a business associate may be
reticent to make an introduction to someone else for you. Cussing isn’t
good. It makes you come off as crass and low class.
The Antidote: Keep your language clean. Squeaky clean. Keep all bad
language out. The big question is: What will it hurt to keep it clean? But
it can hurt to say something you may regret later. No one will complain
because you talk well, but they may complain about your cussing. To put
it another way - watch your mouth!
Have you ever done a “watch your mouth” checklist and then worked on your
weaknesses? If not, here is one for you:
- Do you gossip?
- Do you pass along or start rumors?
- Do you lie?
- Are you given to put-downs?
- Do you poor-mouth?
- Are you a braggart?
- Do you cuss?
Take some time to think about these things. If you can keep your mouth in
good shape and not only avoid the bad ways of speaking but master the good
ways of speaking, you will be well on your way to becoming a successful person!
Hey you - watch your mouth!
Because if you do, you will achieve your dreams!
Chris Widener is a popular speaker and writer as well as the President of
Made for Success and Extraordinary Leaders, two companies helping individuals
and organizations turn their potential into performance, succeed in every
area of their lives and achieve their dreams. Visit his websites at http://www.madeforsuccess.com
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