The Wordsmythe's Weblog…

…On Words, Love and Life

Take your foot out of your mouth

Why is that people, myself included, feel obliged to always say something even when it is obvious they really have nothing to say?

We compliment a hairdo for which frankly, the person should be demanding a refund from the hairdresser. We commend someone on their weight loss when the scales groan under the extra pounds they’ve piled on or remark about their weight gain when they’ve actually lost several pounds. We rave about an outfit which would give Trinny and Susannah enough material for a three-part series of ‘What not to wear.’

Some of us even go as far as stating the very obvious like “Oh, your dress is blue”, “your nose is swollen” (to a hormonal pregnant woman like she missed it in the mirror and needed you to point it out) or something equally apparent. Duh!

I must admit to being guilty of this social ineptitude every now and again. My mouth starts to move well before my brain engages into gear and I find myself saying things I don’t really mean, just to break the silence. I end up wishing I had just shut my mouth when I see the ‘yeah, right!’ look in the other person’s eyes.

Sometime last year, I commented on a lady’s pregnancy. It turned out she was not pregnant but just had a large tummy. Talk about putting your foot in it! I was mortified. I wanted to just disappear, be teleported to some distant land or have the ground open up and swallow me whole. I apologised profusely for my gaffe and she was gracious enough to forgive me, laughing it off saying it was genetic. I don’t know if I would have been so gracious were the tables turned!

I must admit that it is sometimes very difficult to avoid doing this. Those lapses in conversation make you feel so uncomfortable that you end up blurting out the first thing which comes into your head.  Sometimes it’s simply the pressure of wanting to return a compliment when you have been paid one that lands us in hot soup. It’s only as the words proceed from your mouth that you realise how stupid and inappropriate they sound.

I can appreciate why we do this every once in a while but it is really tiresome when one’s on the receiving end, especially if it is something you have to deal with on a regular basis.

We should learn to get comfortable with silence and pauses in conversation. Instead of rushing to fill in the gaps with well-intentioned but misplaced and ill-timed words, we should take the time to process our thoughts and ponder what is being discussed at the time. Be silent, or speak something worth hearing.”

The sentiment of this piece is succinctly captured in the words of Hugh Blair, English clergyman, critic and professor of rhetoric and belles-lettres (1718 – 1809) when he said,

“Silence is one of the great arts of conversation, as allowed by Cicero himself, who says “there is not only an art, but an eloquence in it.””

Let us pay heed to the words of Proverbs 17:28 “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise…” and keep your eyes peeled to make sure your foot’s nowhere near your mouth before you speak.

Tara for now.


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11 thoughts on “Take your foot out of your mouth

  1. ‘…an eloquence in silence’? Profound.

  2. My dear, an art I am trying desperately to master.

  3. CityDiva on said:

    Anyone who can master the art of ‘eloquence in silence’ is truly wise. For certain cultures people feel its their right and duty to comment on all things both seen and unseen. Perhaps here experience will be the best teacher. I am trying to master this precious art also. In group settings I like to or try to,not say much but listen and just observe what is going on around me. Doesnt always work 🙂

    I have had some comments directed at me, which left me speechless.
    A couple of ‘tummy’ comments actually 😀


    • My dear, I know what you mean. I, like you, have received some non-compliments about my tummy.

      God help us to learn the seasons of time – a time to speak and a time to refrain from speaking.

  4. Njide Egbuna on said:

    James 1:19 has been on my mind for sometime now. Thanks for sharing this!. God bless

  5. My dear

    I think I will beat you at this- putting my foot in my mouth. I have committed the same gaffe- asked a woman when her baby was due and got the answer “Oh, I am not pregnant – just fat!”… This is a genetic trait that I seem to have passed on to my daughter. While at someone’s house for dinner when she was about 6 years old, she told the hostess ( an awful cook!)- ” Oh the dinner was a little awful .. but also a little nice”

  6. Thanks for the words of encouragement. It’s a real challenge, especially for a blabber mouth like me but my curse is also my blessing. Luckily, I have the blog as an outlet for my advice.

    As always, I really appreciate you stopping by!

  7. Hmmmm….food for thought for me, especially!

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