Sometimes it Pays to Bite thy Tongue

At times we all get let down and or pissed off by people, whether their friends, work colleagues, family, employees, whoever. However how we handle the problem can make a massive difference to the outcome.

As an example I twice had a similar problem with writers. The first had been writing for me for over a year, she was great at her job until she disappeared on holiday for 2 weeks giving me 30 minutes notice to find cover. As you can imagine I was some what peeved and justifiably so in my opinion. However I handled the situation really badly. When her contract came up for renewal (or she got back from holiday), I simply terminated it and in the process lost both a good writer and friend.

In hindsight, we should have virtually sat down, discussed the problem and agreed what would happen in the future; instead I had a 10 minute hissy fit and that was that.

Next example was also with a writer, this one went off “sick” for 6 weeks, after 4 weeks I saw he was working on another site. I spoke to him on IM knowing he was working for this other site and likely wouldn’t be back, my initial thoughts were to tell him exactly what I thought of him (which would involved words like unprofessional, ungrateful, two faced tosser), however this time I bit my tongue (which did take a lot of doing).

He left my employment for pastures new but we kept on good terms (however if he ever asks for his job back that will be an interesting conversation) and when asked he helps out promoting posts (he’s a prolific twitterer with a following).

The lesson I learnt from this is that the 10 minutes of satisfaction you get from slamming somebody and telling them exactly what you think is nothing compared what you can gain in the future by being civil and biting the tongue. So even if you know you’re in the right and they are in the wrong, take 3 deep breaths and think of what’s best for the future.

Anybody else got good or bad examples when they should of kept their mouth shut?

About Al Carlton

Al quit the 9 to 5 rat race in January of 2007, before then he was a software engineer and systems architect of financial system. Nowadays Al spends the days running his various businesses and experimenting with different ideas and opportunities.
Al can be found on twitter at AlCarlton.


  1. I go nuts almost every day at work with people for the sheer incompetence that surrounds me… always feels good.

    Web Hosting Coupons’s last blog post..How lucky some people are

  2. Luckily I’ve not encountered that situation with my website yet, but yes definitely in workplace environments I’ve had to bite my tongue for a better situation further down the line…and in those situations it is so very hard to not say anything!

    At the time you really got to think that it’s for the best otherwise it will be very frustrating!

    Zath’s last blog post..Panasonic Digital Cameras (FS Series)

  3. A few weeks ago I had it out with a contract employee for poor (or rather no) performance. I was tempted to simply fire him and let it be over. But after I took a breath I was able to give him an ultimatum, and his quality of work improved drastically.

    Of course, he is still on probation. We’ll see how it goes.

    Justin Cook’s last blog post..What is Google’s new SearchWiki?

  4. Very tempted to lose it fairly often. I try hard not to lose control, but usually end up being very sarcastic when it’s bubbling below the surface.

    Does sound a little like a recent article on PowerDosh that I wrote… about burning bridges.

    Al, if you want the occasional article for your gadget blog, I’m happy to write one or two a month. I’d just want a link back to at the end of the article. Just let me know.


    Dan @’s last blog post..Breaking the Block – Finding Motivation

  5. Not really got any examples I can think of right now… but I tend to be the quiet sort who doesn’t normally speak up about stuff. So, I’m kind of opposite and wish I had it in me to speak my mind from time to time. LOL.

    Matthew’s last blog post..iShelf – Cover Flow Style Shelf

  6. One of the most valuable lessons I was taught was never to close doors!!

    It’s amazing how often I have been able to re enter business relationships that just wouldn’t have been possible had I chosen a different approach previously.

  7. Story I once heard was about how one employee made a big mistake, cost his company a lot of money and was certain he was going to be fired when the boss called him into his office.

    The boss didn’t fire him.

    The boss’ opinion was why would want to? This employee had just gone through training worth however much money he lost.

    The employee wouldn’t make the mistake again, he accepted responsibility for it, and was all the more valuable and loyal to the company for the experience.

    Talk about making lemonade.

    Anyone else heard this one? I’ve got a feeling the boss was someone well known, any idea who?

    Eliot Sykes’s last blog post..Looking for for the UK? Try

  8. Personal Injury says:

    Never burn a bridge, you might need to cross it again.

  9. Sounds like a story from Charles Lindbergh…

    I believe one of his staffers messed up a little plane of his big time one day and it nearly killed him. The poor lad expected to get fired, so Lindbergh made him prep his following days plane…which was twice the size…knowing he’d do a proper job the next time round…

  10. Al, if you’d like these writers to write for you again some day, both situations seem fixable.

    Eliot Sykes’s last blog post..Looking for for the UK? Try

    • The first is from a long time ago and I have no idea what she is doing now. The second I’m still in touch with and wouldn’t want him writing for me again, but am happy still being on friendly terms.

  11. I also wrote an article similar to this a couple of weeks back (How not to treat people). It was about when the head of called their affiliates “grubby little people”. Not a good idea! I think trying not to go mad at people definitely helps in most situations, as hard as it is 🙁

    Chris’s last blog post..Silly Domain Evaluations, Why Do You Bother?

  12. Definately a good idea to think before speaking! I´ve gotten myself into some right pickles by opening my mouth when I shouldn´t have. This happens more often to me in my personal life.. but at university I did have a huge problem with a girl who wasn´t meeting my high standards. I ended up shouting at her and getting really angry ( we were having to work so hard to make up for her lack of effort ), but our group ended up with a lower mark than we should have, simply because this was taken as bad teamwork! I should have had a quiet word with her and tried to make her work harder… oh well… you live and learn

  13. Unfortunately I’ve been really bad at getting upset and calling people things that I shouldn’t have said. Mostly this has been done by email as it is somehow easier (which is not a good thing in this case). So now I’ve learned to write the angry email without sending it and the after a day or two going back to it and mostly either deleting it or rewriting it 95% 🙂

    Mikael’s last blog post..Google Smack af EzineArticles?

  14. Company “team building” exercise. Got drunk (along with everybody else), then tried to make decision about what to do in tomorrow’s activity. Surprise surprise, saying to somebody “You’re drunk, you don’t know what you want to do” is NOT the way to get them to vote your way 🙂

    The person I said that to was a fitness freak so we ended up cycling 5 miles when we could have taken the bus…

    Lesson learned – think before opening mouth!

  15. whiter teeth says:

    Someone else observed their wife using silence with a customer some years ago in a retail store.

    The wife had brought a few items to the cash desk and when the sale assistant rang them up on the register, she noticed a discrepancy in the price. When she questioned the difference the employee mentioned that the items in question weren’t available for the price the wife thought they were offered for. Instead of exploding or arguing, the wife chose to remain silent.

    The salesperson immediately began talking to fill up the “dead air” space and it wasn’t long after that the employee had talked herself into giving the wife the discount she had hoped for.

    The lesson to be learned is that the next time you meet with a client or customer, either face to face or over the telephone, try and hold your peace.

    Keep quiet.

    Bite your tongue.

  16. Seeing as my websites are predominently (totally actually!) a one man band at the moment I’d be very foolish to speak my mind!!

    I can only imagine the last minute strain of a paid writer dissapearing for several weeks.

    How do you measure the consequences of them not providing content? Lose of revenue or traffic?

    • More lack of consistency back then, with CG it always has new posts every day and when I only had one writer I was dependant. So if the writer goes AWOL I need to make up the posts, either myself or with another writer.

      On CG I have multiple writers and if one is off it means fewer posts for that day which isn’t the end of the world.

  17. it’s definitely good to bite your tongue sometimes but i do have to question the wisdom of posting the words you held back on your other site!

    Jeff’s last blog post..Lego Digital Camera

  18. health retreat says:

    It’s Sounds bad that you couldn’t control yourself & lose a good writer & friend. Shutting your mouth is very useful sometime as well as sometime it may create a big problem for yourself. It’s all depend on circumstances.

  19. Personally I try very hard not to burn bridges, you never know what is around the next corner in life. Its a small world and you never know when you might bump into people again, in my day job we have had many people leave over the years, quite a few of them have returned and asked for their old jobs back.

    John Essex’s last blog post..Permitted Development Regulations Update

  20. It all happens to us some days. When you realise that you are climbing up your own virtual ladder, you forgot those time when you were at the bottom of the ladder.

    Yeah, indeed – before facing situations such as these, it is always to take one step backward to analyse the situation before taking action. There could always be more benefits than taking rash, immediate actions.

    Keith’s last blog post..Windows Worm Affects Numerous PC

  21. You make some good points. Sometimes its just better to bite your tongue and hold back rather than lash out. It’s hard to do, but necessary sometimes – I agree.

    Brandon Walker’s last blog post..Monetizing A Website To Earn An Income

  22. I had a terrible experience with my designer/developer for my site. Lack of Communication is the biggest pet peeve of mine. I had it happen to my site and it caused disruption for an additional four months and a HUGE headache. I gave her a second chance and it turned out to be a bad decision. It comes down to TRUST. I was so disgusted and I did send her a “pissy” email, but I only paid her for the work she completed. It’s been difficult to trust other people with my site.

  23. I can think of a dozen times that I should have kept my mouth shut!

    The worst is when you’re trying to be helpful and it’s falling on deaf ears…

    Marnie @ My Acai Berry Reviews’s last blog post..Review: Acai Noni Slimming Blend Superfood Body Cleanse

  24. In the situation given in the post, I think that it was a good thing to fire them straight away.
    If people leave you like that and moreover lie to you and it seems that they don´t understand while wasting time and money with them.
    The way those writers behave is very bad, and i think they have a lack of respect.

    Anyway, I understand the thing to think before but i think talking in a spontaneous and frankly way is a good thing that is much radical and usefull.

  25. I don’t usually blow up at people – even when they are being stupid and doing my head in.
    had someone contact me about a business opportunity last week though. I asked lots of questions and got quiet a few answers.
    Arranged to meet for a chat – spent 4 hours discussing financing, structure, shared responsibility, future growth etc. Went home, sorted some money, out, moved funds around etc in case I went ahead and arranged to go and see the business in action.
    Turned up, not there, called, he said he was in another location. Went there – not there. Called, said he was on a different floor – he wasn’t, called AGAIN and was told he wasn’t there himself but two other people were filling in for him that night and he didn’t know why they weren’t there….

    Put down phone – cooled off – went to the bar, drank copious amounts of German beer, went home sent him an email telling him what a wanker he was for wasting my time – doh!!!

    he emailed me back apoogising and had some excuse about something or other – wants to meet again – I just dunno if I could realistically work with someone who buggers about so much though and who could make such a hash of a second meeting.
    Must learn not to use computer when drunk though!

  26. I’ve had several of those occassions where I just lose it with someone and end up losing much more and also creating negative vibes with someone else, which isn’t worth that 10 minute tantrum.

    • I have found it rarely has a positive effect overall and yes – it does “burn bridges”
      Saying that – I have had people call up and grovel and a tongue lashing – knowing they were wrong and normally found an overall improvement.
      With some people I have worked with though – bridges are best burned – never to be repaired such is the incompetence/negligence! if someone you have to rely on cannot see, admit, repair and apologise for their errors then you are probably better of getting them as far away from your business as possible.
      If it didn’t cost me money then perhaps I wouldn’t get so angry about it – but it does so I do!

  27. Dan wonderful effort..i really agree with you..keep it up..thanks for info..

  28. I think this is one of those lessons we learn with time and experience – and hopefully not too many painful experiences. I find that if you keep your mouth shut – the longer the better – then when you do talk people listen. As far as burning bridges is concerned, it’s amazing how life changes. Today we may say “that’s a bridge I’m happy to burn” yet in the future by some totally unseen twist of events we are eternally grateful for NOT having burned the bridge. Bottom line… You NEVER know! Thanks.

    Tari’s last blog post..Prospecting for Your Home Based Greeting Card Business

  29. Yes, as hard as it is sometimes its best to hold your tongue and not say anything. Its important to not burn bridges and keep contacts in good terms, even if you would prefer it to be the other way around.

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