Do you want a quick and easy way to dramatically simplify your life? Do you wish you could avoid most problems in the future? Here is a solution that will completely, immediately reinvent your life: Stop talking so much.
“What was I thinking?” Take a moment to consider the problems you had in the past and have currently. Did you find yourself muttering, “I wish I hadn’t said that”? If you are like me, those reviews often result in an involuntary cringe. Many of the biggest problems in our lives originated from something we said. Or they became much bigger and more serious problems because of what we said in response to someone else. It was not your actions that caused a little problem to become a big problem; it was the words you spoke.
You rarely get in trouble for the things you do not say. Want to simplify your life and save time? Want to live a much more peaceful life with greater harmony? Want to have more friends and be invited to nicer parties? Then avoid uttering those final words that exacerbate problems. Arnold Schwarzenegger can say, “I’ll be back” and become an icon but you cannot. Forget about emulating actors on a screen who always have a glib or cutting response as their final line in an exchange. You don’t have their staff of scriptwriters and editors to write clever dialogue. Those actor always say something devastating and memorable to end an exchange; when you try it, you just start an argument. Instead of uttering a clever retort, let other person speak last. It doesn’t really matter, does it?
Another benefit of not-speaking: Would you like to be known as a great conversationalist? Try to spend more time listening than talking. There is one simple technique you can implement immediately. If you wait for a few seconds, (saying to yourself, “one-thousand one, one-thousand two, one-thousand three…”) before you start to speak, you will often find the other person wasn’t finished talking yet. By giving them time to finish their thoughts completely, you are listening more carefully instead of merely waiting for the first opportunity to tell them what you think. That person feels much better for having an audience that listens thoughtfully. Plus, if you listen respectfully to them, they are more likely to listen respectfully to you.
A universal social rule: Defy authority at your peril. In every organization or society or tribe, there is an order of importance among members. Inherently, groups establish levels of importance with accompanying degrees of power. This will include (especially on the lower levels) members who have no other reason to feel important or valued by their society. That low-level member’s sense of importance might stem from being supervisor over one other person at the office, an important-sounding job title, being a leader in a local organization, winning a contest or sports event, or just being in a gatekeeper position that allows them to thwart the plans of others who need their approval before entering. If not for this slightly elevated social position, those individuals would have even lower status. Often, they are fiercely jealous of their position and its power. Thus, anyone who defies their authority is striking at the very heart of their self-image. Questioning their authority can generate an explosion of anger which will be directed at the questioner. If you find yourself in a situation which appears to challenge someone’s power, don’t provoke a harsh response by defying their authority. Even better, show respect for their position.
In our hunter-gatherer days, humans lived semi-nomadic lives in tribes of 30 to 50 people. Even in those primitive societies, there was a leader and a social structure. In those tribes, defiance of authority could threaten the survival of the whole tribe. Imagine a hungry sabre-tooth tiger is sniffing at the cave entrance. This is not the time to question the orders of the chief. That thread of tribal DNA still runs through our modern society. Public defiance of authority invariably sparks the strongest and quickest response. Such defiance triggers instinctive tribal countermeasures. A flip comment or inappropriate appearance creates an adversarial relationship before any issues are even considered. Why would you want to do that?
How you speak shows your level of importance. Closely related to that tribal-level behavior is the modern rule that how we speak is used to demonstrate dominance. Often, regardless of other qualifications, the person who speaks loudest and longest becomes the boss in a group or a relationship. Accordingly, there are many self-important people who love to talk at great length. They welcome every opportunity to display their status. They seek a stage for their orations. Let them be the boss. Instead of challenging them, you can simplify your life by saying nothing at all. Just walk away from their show. If you are required to make a response, say, “I disagree.” To avoid an argument, you can always say that you have a “philosophical difference” which prevents you from agreeing.
The greatest benefit of not-speaking: Remember the old adage that it is “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt.”
Action Step: Simplify your life by speaking less. Today, put a string or rubber band around your wrist. It should be a small, constant minor discomfort to continually remind you to not speak words you will later regret. The simplest way to achieve this is by applying the old saying of “Count to ten before you open your mouth to speak.”