I recently had to face an awkward moment while on an online meeting (thanks to COVID-19) with my teammates. While talking about managing work, I said I work better from 7 AM to 1 PM. Immediately my colleague, who was constantly trying to impress our manager, saw the opportunity and chipped in. He advised me that we are supposed to dedicate more time to the organization as we are working from home. We ought to be more loyal to the firm that has been so good to us during these difficult times.

I had a hard time explaining my point. My discourse on how my brain is at its peak potential during these hours and how I can deliver better than other times of the day did not seem to lighten the mood.  

It is no secret that communication skill is crucially important. It is imperative for a successful career, happy family life and for having good relations. But many a time, we are not aware of what not to say or how to better phrase things, which gets us in trouble; like me in the meeting.

Many train themselves to talk charismatically. These people know how to influence the masses through their rhetoric. They understand the importance of saying the right thing. Mostly, these folks end up as leaders in the heard.

However, it is equally, if not more, important to know what not to say. Keeping quiet, conveying ideas in minimum words and knowing when to stop, are as important for communication as talking itself.

Understanding your audience

Good communication is like a game of tennis. Your listener, who is at the receiving end, is the other player. Like in tennis, you have to respond to each other to have a great time. If you cannot pick on the cues provided by the other, the conversation becomes one-sided and communication suffers.

Hence, before we start talking, we have to know our audience and their knowledge level. Put simply, we cannot talk to 8th graders like we do to kindergarteners. You cannot talk in an official meeting like you do when you enjoy a beer with your friends.

It can be quite inappropriate.

Know where to stop

People mostly find it difficult to stop talking. They continue blabbering until the audience loses their last shred of patience. Rather than making speakers look like excellent orators, they appear drab and self-centered.

Many a time, instead of making the observation in a sentence, we say a whole paragraph. It not only dilutes the effectiveness of the idea conveyed but mostly hurts the person. The listener sometimes latches on to some words that trigger their emotional response. Then the arena becomes a battleground instead of a nurturing environment.

It happens inside our homes too. Instead of factual discussion, this makes our family conversations emotional outrages. Even if we intended to correct the loved one or give a helpful suggestion, our words turn out to be hurtful thorns.

Stay on topic, listen

Knowing what idea you want to convey is crucial. Or else you may risk deviating from the topic. Hence, we start talking about something and end up on some unrelated subject. It is the sure bet to lose our audience.

The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.


Listening to others is as important as knowing what to say. Everyone wants to be heard. ‘Hear me out, please!’ is the great cry in today’s world. Therefore, listening skill is one thing that cannot be discounted from communication.

The best way to improve listening skills is to develop a genuine interest in others. It is our love that makes us want to pay attention to a person. Only when we start listening, we know how interesting the other person is. Sometimes we get to learn new things or new perspective on something that you already know.

Doing it right

In our meeting, if I had said that I am twice as efficient during early mornings, instead of specifying the time, it would have had a positive impact on the group. But the simple slip of my tongue gave me a stressful moment, not to mention a disturbing day.

Life would be so much easier if we understand the importance of good communication. Knowing the listener, staying on topic, stopping at the right moment and most importantly listening can make us better in the skill. Let us strive to make our words more precise, ideas more transparent, and communications more clear. May the world be filled with our melodious songs of love and capture the hearts of our listeners.

Thank you for reading. Please post your thoughts in the comment box below.

10 thoughts on “Learning what not to say”

  1. Thanks. Enlightening insights about a vital skill for survival in these indoor times.

  2. It also helps to remember that there’s often someone in the audience waiting to pounce and use your work, worth ethic, habits, etc. to make themselves look better.

    I do know what you mean about being more efficient earlier in the day. It seems that 7:30 to 11:30 are my peak productivity times. After this, it becomes more challenging to harness my thoughts and avoid interruption.

    Thanks for this piece and these communication reminders.

    1. You are totally right. There are many who take offence at whatever we say. It is surely difficult to deal with them. Regarding the work hours, I am happy to meet someone who can resonate with my work timing. Hope you avoid the pitfalls I had while expressing such matters.
      Thank you for your comment and support.

      1. I have learned to keep things to myself or to at least keep my statements vague. I also try to be smart about organizing my work so that I save the mindless or the easier tasks for after lunch. Thanks again for this thought provoking story!

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