Saturday, September 4, 2004

After this year's political campaigns, quite a few people will be saying:


Gosh, I wish I hadn't said that!

| Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor


Gosh, I wish I hadn't said that!

In public and at home, Americans are boldly speaking their minds - and sometimes regretting it later.

As a self-proclaimed "loudmouth of long standing," Judith Newman of New York likes to speak out.
So does Bryan Freeman of Atlanta, who calls himself "a very forthright person."  Victoria Moran, another New Yorker, says she is "prone to speak first and regret shortly thereafter."  And John Baldoni of Ann Arbor, Mich., laughs when he says that he is "famous in my family for shooting my mouth off."  It's a question that looms large for many people - at home, at work, with friends, and in public.

Whatever the subject or circumstance, those with opinions to offer must decide whether to zip their lips or let words and emotions tumble out.

The question has also been floating through the summer air after Teresa Heinz Kerry's widely publicized rebuke of a reporter - an act that generated both criticism and praise.  Alluding to the incident in a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, she said, "My right to speak my mind, to have a voice, to be what some have called 'opinionated,' is a right I deeply and profoundly cherish."

That right isn't always appreciated by others.  One person's idea of candor may be another's definition of thoughtlessness.  "Honesty without compassion is cruelty," says Jonathan Bernstein of Monrovia, Calif.

Some observers see a double standard based on gender.  "We are more forgiving, or more enthusiastic for men to speak their minds," says Mr. Baldoni, a leadership communications consultant.  "We say, 'Oh, he really told them off.'  That's an accepted part of our society.  But I don't think we're comfortable seeing women do that.

Teresa Heinz Kerry tell off a reporter, some people see that as a negative.  If her husband had done it, it probably wouldn't have been a story."

Other differences in approach take a regional twist.

A native Southerner, Schuyler Brown found that Southern politeness and reticence did not serve her well when she moved to New York.  "I literally was talked over, interrupted, ignored, and not taken seriously until I began to speak my mind loudly and forcefully," says Ms. Brown, an associate director at Euro RSCG Worldwide, a marketing agency.  But that approach can cause problems on a personal level, Brown says.

For many women, the lightning-rod subject is motherhood. "We give advice where nobody's asking," says Newman, the mother of 3-year-old twins. "Motherhood - other people's ways of doing whatever it is they do - is one area where we should all shut up."  So sensitive is the topic that she and a relative are not speaking because of a rift over a childrearing issue.  I should have shut my mouth a long time ago, and so should she."

"We should think twice about speaking up if we are only saying something out of defensiveness or anger," says James Houran of Irving, Texas, a clinical psychologist specializing in communication.

"And think twice about speaking up if you are participating in a power struggle, just to assert your authority."

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer

 Can everyone say Zell Miller !

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