Some Things Are Best Left Unsaid

There was a time when time felt endless.

The boy in the photo never imagined a time when he would have to worry about being cautious about what he said because he had no reason to fear that one day prospective employers would sift and sort through his social profiles to try and figure out what kind of person he was.

He didn’t worry about whether the witty Facebook status that made his friends laugh would make the hiring manager and Brand XYZ wonder if he lacked common sense or was some sort of troublemaker.

A Modern Day Rebel and Patriot

Many years have passed and I am old enough to have an 18 year-old child and not be questioned about how old I was when I became a dad, but I still remember who I was. That boy would have been incensed at the thought of not being to speak his mind. He would have told you that he had won awards for sports writing, had good command of the language and that anyone with common sense would worry more about whether he could do the job than what he said on some public forum.

Of course he didn’t have a clue what social media would be or any idea that one day someone would “Google” him or that he would get emails about his Twitter feed and questions about why he retweeted post XYZ.

So he would have done what he thought was right and said what he wanted to say. And that my friends provides the opportunity to share with you words from my grandfather, “you can’t screw an old head on young shoulders.”

It is worth mentioning that my father has made sure I never forgot my grandfather’s words. Heck, during a disagreement earlier this year he spit them out at me and it was like no time had passed. Unlike old times I didn’t walk away and dream about the girl from history and wonder if maybe tomorrow I would ask her out on a date.

But I digress.

The Power of Silence

Time, age and experience have taught me the value of being careful to keep my own counsel. While friends sometimes tease me about being “soft” I like keeping my thoughts to myself in large part because I have learned the value of silence.

Silence is a wonderful tool for a multitude of reasons.

Many people are uncomfortable with it. The next time you try negotiating a contract see what happens when the other side reviews the terms and you don’t say a word. If you have a disagreement with someone silence can be very effective too.

There have been moments where I very much wanted to use colorful and descriptive words to excoriate someone I had a disagreement with. Moments where I yearned to say something that I was certain would make them understand how dumb they were and see that they were the sort of moron that made rocks look smart.

But I didn’t do it.

Most of the time it was because there was no purpose served in speaking from anger. People remember how you make them feel and when you make them feel stupid you rarely have the sort of outcome you might want.

Loose Lips Sink Ships

High school is long ago and the boy that was is no more. He watched technology explode and saw the world change.

Now I think about the boundaries of blogging and the need to be aware of what I say, print and do online. People pay attention to these things, they watch what you do.

Take a look at Best Practices: Apologies and Non-Apologies and you’ll see one of hundreds of examples of people not thinking about the consequences of their words.

The person who was handling social media for the Pantages made a huge mistake. You may think a customer’s request is unreasonable and your inclination may be to make it clear to them but you need to think twice about how you do it.

Ask Cathryn Sloane about what happened when she wrote a post suggesting that people of a certain age might be too old to run social media campaigns.

She got hammered. We can save the discussion for whether the response was fair, reasonable or other. The point is if you aren’t paying some attention to what you do online you may be placing yourself at risk.

Moderation, Balance and Community

I can’t bang out 700 push ups each day like the boy in the picture (I am working on it, back to 150) but he couldn’t have held his tongue or foreseen the consequences the way I can now. I don’t know if he would have been interested in debating content and community either, but I rather enjoy such things now.

Lots more to say and share but we’ll save those things too for a different day. It is time to go help get some things together for Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it. After I wake up from my self induced turkey coma I’ll have a piece of pie in your honor.

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  4. Sapna November 25, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Hi Josh

    You have rightly said that “Silence is golden”, but I have learnt that very hard way. I use to speak a lot but as one matures and takes more responsibility, listening to other person viewpoint is more important. Less you Speak, more you learn is the theory which evolved gradually.


    • Josh November 26, 2012 at 12:43 am

      Hi Sapna,

      Silence is golden and as Adam said earlier it is harder to get into trouble when you don’t speak.

      I too have learned about this the hard way.

  5. Megan Wille, Science-Fiction/Fantasy Author November 25, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Thank you for taking the time…and the thought…to share this. I am in my mid-twenties and still learning the value of silence. I came into social media after I was out of high school and it still amazes me that employers will “Google” you or check your Facebook/Twitter profiles before deciding whether or not to hire you. I’m not quite sure I agree with that but, at the same time, I don’t quite agree with people who will say anything and everything simply because they can. Freedom of speech has to come with the ability to know when to just shut up.

    I really enjoyed your post. Very wise. Thanks again for sharing 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Josh November 26, 2012 at 12:42 am

      Hi Megan,

      Every time we go online we leave little cyber bread crumbs all over the place. Employers work hard to figure out who they are hiring so they dig for all of the information they can find.

      It is irritating sometimes but part of life so you have to deal with it. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

  6. CJ November 25, 2012 at 3:37 am

    In my previous comment, that was, of course, supposed to be “sacred cows” not “scared cows” —but I guess if we are afraid to say what we think, my typo may be appropriate anyway.

  7. CJ November 25, 2012 at 3:34 am

    What a wonderful, thoughtful post. As you stated, people remember how you make them feel –not so much what you say.

    Good advice we should all heed often: “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” (quote attributed to various people)

    I resolved the problem of making controversial statements online by creating a separate blog under a pseudonym —on that one I discuss the “scared cows” of race, religion, politics, etc. I feel more free to express opinions there. But, then, I’m retired and will probably never apply for another job, so I don’t worry about employers googling me. I fear only some nasty neighbors with strong opinions and lots of guns. I don’t discuss much more than the weather with them, so they have no idea what I think about those topics.

    My response to Weekend Linkup at Write on Edge can be found here:
    Please stop by.

    • Josh November 26, 2012 at 12:39 am

      Hi CJ,

      If you feel like you can’t speak openly then I think there are potential benefits to having a separate blog. Writing can be cathartic and it is a healthy way to vent about problems and challenges we face.

  8. stephanie November 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I enjoy silence. In fact it says so right there on my twitter profile. So I get this post. Well said, well written. I warn my nephew about this when he posts his 140 character tirades. Too much shouting. Having said that I agree that employers ought to be more interested in how their employee can handle a job. But the word of today is branding. If anything or anyone hurts that.. out they go.

    • Josh November 24, 2012 at 7:13 pm

      Hi Stephanie,

      I like silence too. It took me a while to realize just how much I do but I am glad I did. Once I stopped talking and started listening, the world opened up.

      How old is your nephew/

      Yeah, you are right about branding.

  9. Adam November 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Frankly Josh, it’s funny for me to think of you constraining yourself, as you are about fifty times looser than I am with this online stuff. Part of it is of course, the topic areas. However, I do very much subscribe to the theory that it is hard to get yourself in trouble saying nothing. It’s possible, but not usually.

    Some things really are better off left unsaid.

    • Josh November 24, 2012 at 6:20 pm

      Hi Adam,

      Bill says you are uptight in person too. 😉

      Topic area really does have a significant impact as to what we say/share and how we do it. I have learned the hard way that it never hurts to keep our mouth shut. It was a hard lesson, but a good one.

      It applies to customer service too. While it is possible to get in trouble for not making your customer feel valued because of what you didn’t say it is always easier to get in trouble with them for you did say.

  10. Adrienne November 23, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Well, weren’t you a cutie pie at 18 Josh! Not that you still aren’t but you know how it is when we’re young.

    I am so glad I left corporate America before companies started checking out your social profiles. Not that I would have or have said anything I’m ashamed of but I’m sure some company would find fault with something.

    Pushups, what’s those! lol…

    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Josh and enjoy your weekend.


    • Josh November 24, 2012 at 12:04 pm

      Hi Adrienne,

      Yeah, once upon a time people said that kind of stuff about me. Now I am just a grumpy old man. 😉

      I think you touched upon a key point- people can always find fault with things we do or say. There is no way around it and some of it is really sad because it shows a complete lack of tolerance and it is just unnecessary.

      My Thanksgiving was good, hope yours was too.

  11. Brian Meeks November 23, 2012 at 7:31 am

    My take away was that I really need to get in shape. 150 push-ups is a bunch, so is 90 (Well done Gini).

  12. Lori Gosselin November 22, 2012 at 7:55 am

    What? Don’t eat my piece of pie! I’ll have it, thanks, even though my Thanksgiving was last month!
    I do notice that I’m coming to appreciate the value of silence Josh! It comes with wisdom/age – when you’ve heard enough and experienced enough to know you don’t have all the answers. As Barbara said, silence often makes one uncomfortable but I’ve found I prefer it to having it be filled with the “wrong” sort of things. Things like people assuming they know how you should deal with things when in fact they have no idea of how it feels where you are. I don’t like what it took to get me here, but I love that I got here. Does that make sense?

    • Josh November 22, 2012 at 10:12 pm

      Hi Lori,

      If you find peace of mind in silence than I am glad to hear it. I wouldn’t have chosen that method for you either. I learned to appreciate silence from my dad, grandfathers and from certain experiences I have had, but it really took age/experience to make me understand the value and importance of it.

      FWIW I should add that some of it also comes from spending quite a bit of time alone. Since I have worked from a remote office for so many years I have found that has been another tool I have used to learn how to be comfortable in my own company.

      I can’t promise your slice of pie will remain untouched. If it is apple or pumpkin and you turn your head all bets are off. 😉

  13. Bell November 22, 2012 at 7:32 am

    700 push-ups is impressive. Heck, even 150 is impressive.

  14. Ralph November 22, 2012 at 5:41 am

    Enjoy your pie… silence. 🙂

  15. Barbara November 22, 2012 at 12:12 am

    Push-ups? Oh, dear, I only know the word in connection with a piece of garment but have all the respect for physical maintenance.

    Silence used to make me very uncomfortable and I was forever filling it with noise. When in sales I made sure my customers really needed the goods, this made it far easier to ask for the sale! I guess I must have listened quite well.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Josh, and what kind of a pie will it be?

    • Josh November 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm

      Hi Barbara,

      Young bucks like myself are fighting to hold onto whatever shreds of youth are left. 😉 Push ups are just one way of doing it.

      Silence is hard sometimes, but it really works well. However asking good questions certainly makes it easier to fill the silence with something useful and meaningful.

      Thank you for the Thanksgiving greetings. Do they do anything similar in Switzerland?

      • Barbara November 24, 2012 at 11:30 pm

        There is a national Thanksgiving, Repentance and Prayer Day on the 3rd Sunday in September, it used to be a big thing when I was young, not in the sense of a big hoopla but rather introspective, all public life came to a standstill. Funny, I have not thought about this day for ages.

  16. Gina November 21, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    One of the first things I learned in sales was to ask for the contract then be quiet.

  17. Mary Stephenson November 21, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Hi Josh

    I agree somethings are better left unsaid. Face to face with people, silence works wonders to get your point across. I find a lot of people can’t stand silence as a reply.

    For the internet, you really have to think twice about what you write especially on places such as Facebook. Written is far stronger than spoken. People may forget exactly what you said overtime, but when it is written, it is down for all to see and read many times if need be.

    Some might really be morons or dumb as rocks as you say, but who are we to say they are wrong. It is just our opinion and as much as I feel I am right in my judgment of someone, it serves no purpose to be frustrated by them. True very hard to keep silent, but if it doesn’t affect me I would rather walk away from stupidity.

    I have always been slow to talk and it has served me well on numerous occasions. Although I would have liked to have had faster wit, I always think of these great comebacks after the situation is over!

    Good lesson for young people that think they are just socializing with friends…there are strangers out there on the internet and some stuff broadcasted out can comeback to haunt them later.


    • Josh November 21, 2012 at 11:52 pm

      Hi Mary,

      What we place online has the potential to live on forever and lord knows the written word is easily misinterpreted and or misunderstood. We might have good intentions but you never know how some people will take things so it is important to be cautious.

      I talk to my children about the need to understand that we never know who will end up reading our words and as you mentioned it could be people we would prefer not see it.

  18. Gini Dietrich November 21, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Is that you in high school??!? For the record, I did 90 pushups today and my arms hurt so badly, they’re still shaking.

    Happy Thanksgiving! xoxo

    • Josh November 21, 2012 at 11:54 pm

      Hi Gini,

      Yep, that is a picture from a surprise party some friends threw for my 18th birthday. Ninety push ups is more than respectable.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you, Mr. D. and Jack Bauer.

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