Saturday, September 10, 2011

Big Mouth

When I was 5 my neighbor Mike was being mean to me. 

In order to get back at him, I said in my sternest Olive Oyl voice:  "You. . .you. . you . . .BRUTE!"

"Shut up Big Mouth" was his reply.

My mother heard us fussing and told me to be kind to Mike.

"Shut up Big Mouth" was my reply.  (Hey -- it worked for Mike). 

Of course, I got a spanking.  A spanking I remember 40 years later.  Don't ever tell my mom to shut up.  Also, don't call her a bitch. . .but that's a story from the teen files. 

Here's the thing.  Mike was right.

I am a Big Mouth.

I have no inner filter.  If it comes in my head, I say it.

I am the person who says what everyone else is thinking but has the good sense to keep it to themselves.

When my leadership group used a cartoon of 6 kids in a spaceship as a "symbol" of our team, I pointed to the redhead & said "This is me".  I pointed to the cute black girl & said "This one is [Black friend's name]!".  Everyone else looked embarrassed.  I don't know why they were embarrassed.  [Black friend] knows she's black.  She also knows she's cute. 

I guess it wasn't polite. 

Yesterday I was at a "town hall" meeting of sorts.  The goal of the meeting was to openly discuss issues at work.  The meeting was run by the President of the College.  The President of the College is the most awesomest awesome guy in the world next to Greg A.  I love this guy like a brother.  He is an incredible friend and leader and mentor. 

He also has had a really tough year.  If you've read the newspapers at all last year, you know that FY 2010/2011 was a tough year for higher ed.  It was a horrible year, but at least we had him at the helm.  He made the hard decisions that needed to be made.  He protected the staff as much as he could.  When someone needed to take the fire, he took it.

The last thing I want to do is make his life harder.

The meeting was attended by lots of people.  All of them care about our organization.  Some of them don't like the decisions that have been made.  They haven't been shy about venting their spleens via the organization-wide e-mail system.  They have a right to make themselves heard.  Open and candid discussion is important.  I truly believe this.

I also believe that words are powerful and that the words one chooses to use have an impact.

In other words, there is a way to complain without whining.

Unfortunately, group e-mails at our organization tend to be less about constructive criticism and more about anger.

When I mentioned something along those lines in the town hall meeting, I should have chosen my words more carefully.

Or maybe I should have just kept it to myself.

I'm sorry Dr. E!  I didn't mean to open the can of worms.  I didn't mean to make things harder on you. 

I'm such a Big Mouth.


  1. One of the best pieces of advice (besides don't walk on the sidewalk in front of Mr. Mraz's house at night), was to never write an e-mail with emotion. Take a little while to compose yourself before you...uh...compose an e-mail. Once you fire off a real "flamer," it's impossible to take it back. Calling your boss a weasel may be swell at the moment, but it may not have been a wise career move (unless you work at Wendy's. Then, who really cares?). Group e-mails can even be a worse vehicle to vent your spleen. Your poster above is perfect! DISCLAIMER: Unfortunately, I don't always follow good advice because I have a big mouth, too. However, I did listen to the Mr. Mraz caution. Until he got arrested.

  2. Mary, I am the Queen of the Big Mouths. And I have learned from experience that even the greatest Hell you can unleash will all settle down one day. Maybe Dr. E will one day be appreciative that SOMEONE opened that damned can.

  3. I have NO filter at all, and it usually comes at the expense of my husband. His mom is very old school traditional listen-to-your-elders, and I am very... NOT. I don't WANT anyone's unsolicited opinions about my kids, my marriage, etc. Every time MIL butts in, I end up losing my temper. Then, I feel guilty for weeks because I've made Hubby's life harder by not nodding politely and keeping my trap shut.

  4. I don't really have a filter either, but I've used one before and it makes me hate myself. No filter is actually a filter, because it serves to filter out all the people who wouldn't normally waste their precious time on you. I hated finding myself surrounded by a bunch of people who wouldn't normally gravitate to me, but suddenly found me likeable because I didn't attempt to make them think or I didn't waste five minutes carefully phrasing everything before I said it.

    I support you, pointing out that people are whining carries enough strength that it will stick with peole and they'll remember it before they act stupid next time.

    I probably wouldn't have done the same thing during the cartoon exercise though... ...I would've called the black girl for myself. I would've been like "that's me, ME people, I called her FIRST."

  5. I appreciate your honesty and that fact that you remind us all that how we say it can sometimes matter more than what we say. Good advice.


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