Before Engaging Your Keyboard

There is an old saying that goes “before engaging your mouth, first ensure that your brain is in gear.”  I think the modern variant to the saying should be “before engaging your keyboard, first ensure your brain is in gear.”  Both variants of the quotes have been ignored a lot recently, usually to the chagrin of those who failed to ensure their brain was in gear.  People are losing respect, jobs and potential future earnings, to varying degrees, due to statements that are quickly rescinded.  I have three ideas to keep you from joining the ever-growing crowd of those who wished they had not tweeted something.

  1. Never send an email, tweet or other written post when you are angry.
  2. Unless a quick response is life or death, sleep on your reply to any controversial subject before you hit send.
  3. Ask someone else to review your response before you hit send.

If you are angry, your brain is highly likely not to be fully engaged.  Road rage is a perfect example of what I mean.  People suffering from road rage are not thinking about anything but getting revenge.  They aren’t thinking about safely operating an automobile; they aren’t thinking about the bad outcomes that could affect them like a wrecked car or a further delay in getting to their destination.  Anger blinds you to full comprehension of the implications as much as being drunk or under the influence of some other legal or illegal substance.  If you must respond quickly, at least take a few minutes to walk around, let off steam and think about something else.  Just stewing on the issue for 15 minutes and getting angrier is not what I mean.  Until you actually “forget” about the topic for at least a few seconds, you won’t be able to get past the anger and look at your response comprehensively with a clear mind.

Life or death responses are so rare, many of us will only have a handful of such situations occur in our lifetimes.  Sure, if you are a 911 operator or a doctor helping with an operation over the internet, you can’t “sleep on your response,” the rest of us can. I can’t count the number of times I wrote and revised emails but decided to leave the reply until the next day, only to realize the next morning how harsh the email was and how much better I could have written my reply.  In today’s fast paced world where people are hyper concerned about speed rather than quality, we often lose touch that people can usually wait until the next day for a reply with no harm whatsoever.  You may not be the person with the most tweets, but maybe you could become EF Hutton – the person people stop to listen to when you do say something.

My final piece of advice is to have someone review your response before you send it. Writers have an editor for a reason.  The editor brings a different perspective and a fresh look at the writing.  That means the person you go to can’t be someone who is just going to egg you on.  You need someone who is willing to challenge you from time to time, as well as, someone who has a different, not opposite, but different, perspective than you do on several subjects.   That person can be a peer, a boss or a strong subordinate, and can be several different people depending on the subject.

One final thought.  People forget that the written word, and today with video recorders in every pocket, the spoken word is forever.  Thinking – engaging your brain – before speaking or writing is not a sign of weakness.  Thinking is a sign of intelligence and compassion, and don’t we need more of both today?

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