When in doubt, close your mouth

Have you ever met someone who you thought was so intriguing? Something about them seems to grab your attention; maybe their looks or carriage. For some reason you hold them in high esteem until they open their mouth. Oh you just wish they hadn’t spoken! Their value in your eyes just plummeted from 10 to -10.

I have experienced this many times. Sometimes, it is even with people that others hype – famous people you may say. They look intelligent, they behave normal until they utter one word and then you begin to question if it is the same person that held much value in your eyes. Honestly such situations can be avoided. Do you know how hard it is to increase your value in someone’s eyes when it just diminished? It takes a lot of hard work. If however, we learn how to close our mouths when in doubt, we won’t be placed in such a situation.

Thanks to social media, a lot of people have what I would call pseudo-intelligence. Except you listen carefully and you are able to separate the wheat from the chaff, what they say or write somehow makes sense. However, when you break it down you realise they have uttered complete nonsense. These days we are confronted with people who just want to speak because they have a mouth and a tongue. It doesn’t matter whether they have absolutely no idea about the subject matter they are talking about. It doesn’t matter that they have not taken time to formulate a coherent thought pattern. They just speak…well…just because.

Sometimes, it is ok to keep quiet and listen. In fact, I love listening. A lot. You learn more things when you listen than when you speak. It is not everything that goes through your mind that has to come out of your mouth. Again, when in doubt just keep quiet or use Google. I have seen people miss out on big opportunities just because they were too forward. I have also seen people lose valuable contacts just because they didn’t know how to talk. The fact is that our generation is becoming increasingly rude. It’s the truth. The way seniority was enforced back in the day is not the same way it is enforced today. I have friends who are over 40 and I call them by name. If I don’t tell you the age difference between us, you would never guess. I always have to consciously make sure that I do not disrespect them in anyway because frankly, they are not my mate. It doesn’t matter if the person is your colleague or subordinate, as long as they are older than you, they deserve that basic respect.

Then there are the people who feel they know everything because of the number of certificates they possess. These people are the worst because they say all their rubbish with so much confidence. It reminds me of one ITK girl I had in one of my seminars in my first year in uni. If we did not hear this girl’s voice, our seminar for that day wasn’t complete. She just had to speak and most of the time, the things she said did not make any sense. Incoherent arguments, little or no statutory or case law backing…it was as if the thought would fly into her head and fly straight out of her mouth. But this girl had so much confidence! She would go on and on with this derailed argument. You’ve got to love oyinbo people…they gave everyone an equal opportunity to speak so we had to endure minutes of pain. If the girl had taken the time to study her notes or even listen to the lecturer, she would not have said a lot of the things that made us question her intelligence.

What a lot of people don’t realise is that words have power. They leave an impression. If I see the girl mentioned above, the first thing I would remember about her is her knack for going ‘off-point’. I haven’t seen her in like six years and she may have changed but that is the impression I have of her and that is what I am likely to tell someone who asks me to tell them what I know about her.

Be mindful of what you say especially to those who are above you. Listen. Learn. Listen. Speak only when necessary. Even when the mood is light and people are joking, crack jokes wisely. These things matter. You don’t know who is watching. You don’t know which words are sticking. Remember, the most intelligent people are not the ones who have a comment to make on every issue but the people who make one comment that commands the attention of greatness!


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