“Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”
~Ambrose Bierce

My passion and intensity is part of what defines me. It makes me me. And it makes me proud. Yet it sometimes gets in my way.

Because some of my most passionate moments are when I’m most emotional. And when I’m most emotional I’m often not thinking clearly, especially when I’m angry. I try to live, at least as often as possible, by the adage, “Would you rather be right, or happy?” I try to pick happy. When I’m angry, it’s as if I can only pick right.

When I’m angry, I know I’m right. I teach clients to see the other side, consider other points of view, look for information they’ve failed to see, and think through how their opinion might be wrong. But when I’m angry, I know I’m right. And when I know I’m right, I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. I need to tell you what I know, why I’m right, and how you’re wrong.

Luckily I usually don’t. Because what Ambrose Bierce has shared is true. Usually I manage to slap my hands over my mouth and repeat in my head, sometimes over and over, “You don’t want to say that. You don’t want to say that.” Because if I say the brilliant, scathing things running through my mind, I may “win” in the moment, but I’ll lose in the long run. I’ll lose the relationship (or at least hurt the relationship) with the person with whom I’m in discussion, and I’ll lose any chance of finding a solution with which we both can be satisfied. “Jury, please disregard that statement,” doesn’t work. Whatever I say will be said. I won’t be able to take it back. And in the long run, is that really what I want?

I once heard another adage, “Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.” When I’m angry that’s harder to follow. So instead I’ve learned to pause, to count to ten, to take a bathroom break, to leave the meeting or the room, to remind myself (over and over if necessary) that I want to solve the problem not decimate my “opponent.” I know that the best way to solve a problem is to get on the same side of the problem and look at it from that vantage point to find a solution. It’s easier to do that when I’m not speaking in anger. When I may be passionate and intense, but not enraged. When I can make a speech I want remembered, not a speech I’ll regret.

Hold your tongue when you’re upset.

How can you keep from speaking in anger, and making a speech you’ll regret?
Please leave a comment to let us know.

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