Practical Philosophy

Words have unintended consequences

In both How to Win Friends and Influence People and The 48 Laws of Power, the authors highlight that you should be very careful when disagreeing with people. If somebody raises an incorrect point, and you correct them, they will often perceive it as a challenge to their intelligence. Being argumentative is a quick way to build resentment, regardless of how right you are.

Recently, I caught up with an old friend. In our conversation, we talked about a mutual friend. “Yeah, she’s doing this now.” “Oh, she’s travelling there.” “Remember when you asked what school she went to because of her bad spelling?” Oh shit. It must have been a bad joke I made years ago. Nonetheless, I felt terrible and apologised. It was a stark reminder that when you say things, you cannot take them back.

Saying less is generally better than saying too much. It’s wise to control your emotions and reign in the need to make that sarcastic comment. Why? Your words and actions have unintended consequences.

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