Over the last few weeks, three high profile people have failed to shut their mouth — and landed in hot water as a result! Joe Wilson (“You Lie!”), Serena Williams (“I will shove this ball down your throat!”) and Kayne West (“Beyonce made the best…”) all said what was on their mind at the time.
That’s the problem.
If you always say what’s on your mind in real time, you will eventually find out that some things are best kept to yourself (or shared in a private place.) Shouting out that the president of the United States is a liar on national TV is not smart by any analysis. Physically threatening a demure line judge isn’t something a tennis coach would recommend. Interrupting an acceptance speech is always considered a no-no, regardless of who is involved. But all three did it anyway. Why? Because they felt empowered by their status.
Empowerment is what got them in trouble. All three of them were surprised at the backlash to what they did. Often, there is a huge gap between what we think is an appropriate outburst and what the world thinks is fair. When the act is captured on video tape, then the backlash exponentially spreads.
Don’t let empowerment and YouTube get you too. You should always assume that you don’t have the power or authority to interrupt or threaten anyone in real time — even if the situation doesn’t seem fair or just to you at the time. Consider their stories a cautionary tale for your life too. Remember, their #1 fault was speaking their mind in real time.
For the last five years, I’ve been giving talks on the importance of cultivating Emotional Talent. Much of that work was based on the research I did for my second book, The Likeability Factor. From that body of work, here are three tips on how to keep those negative thoughts to yourself next time you are in a public place:
1. Remove yourself from the situation. If Joe Wilson got up and left the talk, it would have been far less worse for his career than the outburst. Kayne could have left (he’s done it before).
2. Delay gratification. There is no reliable research that indicates you’ll feel better or be healthier by expressing your frustration in real time. When you blurt out what’s on your mind, you are going for the instant gratification of getting the negative thought “off your chest” — and in their case, into the public eye. Stop yourself, and promise to have your outburst later in private.
3. Visualize the backlash. Just as you see the white light, get a hot flash across your face and feel your blood pressure soar, pretend Dr Phil is asking you, “What were you thinking when you made that outburst?” By seeing the potential results, you’ll often cool down and realize that you are about to do some serious damage to your personal brand. That extra beat of consideration can be the key in sucking it up and waiting to fight another day.
Bring me in to speak on Emotional Talent at your next meeting.