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It happens: sometimes that filter in our head bursts and we say too much of what we’re thinking and someone gets hurt. Tell us about a time you or someone you know said something that they immediately regretted.

Oh sure, lots of times. Sometimes words are out of my mouth before the filter even has a chance to kick in.

A good quote on this subject that reflects my point of view is from Napoleon Hill, American lawyer and author: “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”

As a responsible adult, I’ve learned, sometimes through negative experience, to think before I speak, both in my work-life and my personal-family life.

I’ve also learned that it’s important and more effective to wait for the right moment to say something that’s intended to be important, appropriately critical, or personal. If the listener isn’t receptive, a megaphone won’t help. This is one of the reasons arguing angrily is pointless; neither party is receptive.

My parents argued a lot when I was a child — loud and angrily. Embarrassed, in the summertime, I would go around the house and close the windows so neighbors wouldn’t hear them yelling. I don’t think it had any beneficial effect on their relationship, because I don’t think they really understood each other, or they simply didn’t care what the other thought. Unfortunately, I can recall some very hurtful things that my mother would say to me in anger. As a result, I’ve never been an arguer; I avoid confrontation at all costs — but over the years (and with therapy) I’ve learned how to appropriately and effectively express my opinions without getting angry about things.

I’ve heard parents talk to their kids in public in ways that make me shudder. Too many in fact. Putting a child down, embarrassing him or her in public, telling him or her that she’s worthless, stupid, mean, etc., should never be said to another person, let alone a child who’s a developing human being. Said too often, they begin to believe what parents or others say about them, then they will feel worthless, sad, unmotivated, defeated.

Speaking one’s mind doesn’t have to be hurtful; while all of us will say things we regret, taking into other people’s feelings and emotions always has to be regarded before we speak. The old saying about sticks and stone isn’t right — words can be harmful and have a last effect.

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