When I was a corporate person, I’d be half asleep some nights and suddenly rouse myself with a start, remembering some off-the-wall thing I had said at a meeting during the day. “Man, did I actually say that?” I’d think. As a corporate person, I used to censor myself terribly. I always felt that I was on the verge of saying something awful, something that would hurt my stock price on the internal personal-stock-price index that I was sure existed among the corporate brass.
Most of the time, on reflection, the worst thing I could say about the off-the-cuff remarks I made was that they were not politically wise. It wasn’t that I said especially stupid things, or things that weren’t true. It’s just that, sometimes, without thinking, I’d say something that didn’t pay homage to the political hierarchy, and may have hurt my long-term career prospects.
That speaking-without-thinking issue ended up, as so many of our problems do, not mattering a bit. The corporation was sold in 1997, and I went off to greener pastures (consulting pastures, then start-up pastures, etc.).
Today, I have learned a few more things and for the most part, my brain-mouth connection is very solid. I do tremendously little self-censoring. Why would I? Who am I going to offend? One time, not long ago, I was on a plane and the woman next to me said “Isn’t this you, in the paper?” She was reading a Chicago suburban paper, the Daily Herald. And indeed, it was me — turns out I had spoken at a women’s conference in the Chicago area not long before and had been quoted saying things like “The corporate world is full of great-ape displays and typical male behavior.” Yikes, I said that? I guess so. I don’t know that I would have remembered saying that stuff, but there it was in black and white.
So – what’s worse, to say things that you mean and maybe rankle someone, or not say what you mean? I say, say it. I can’t imagine that we do more damage to ourselves speaking out of turn from time to time than we do clamping our jaws shut all day long. I have to trust my brain and my gut to do their jobs. My mouth delivers the product – I can’t live my life and evaluate it at the same time. Can you?