Friday, November 11, 2011

Just Shut Up!!!

“Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing.”
Robert Benchley

If only I could learn that! So many times, I’ve been in the middle of some statement and thought “just shut up, Maryann!” but of course it’s too late at that point.
I talk too much anyway. And I really want to give all of the information. And I want to tell the truth. And sometimes, this gets me in trouble.

The first time I realized, too late, that I should have just shut up was in the early 1990s when Magic Johnson reported that he was HIV positive. I was young, and worked on the Kentucky Fried Chicken account at the time as an account executive. Magic Johnson happened to own a slew of KFCs and I got a call from someone from the Washington Post asking if I could send them a camera-ready logo. They were doing an article about Johnson’s extensive business holdings. I told them I’d have to ask my client, and would call them back.

My client told me the absolute wrong thing. What she SHOULD have told me was to refer them to KFC’s public relations office. What she said was something like “Heavens no! We don’t want to be associated with THAT!” So I called the Post back and said no. The girl from the graphics design department asked if I’d speak to her “boss” (translated, as I found out later, as “reporter”) and he asked me why not. I hemmed and hawed – it was late on a Friday evening and my mom, sister and brother-in-law had just gotten in town and I wanted to leave to see them – and I basically told them what my client had said. As I mentioned, I like to be honest. As the words came out of my mouth, I desperately tried to backtrack. “I’m not authorized to give any statement!” I said. “You can’t quote me!” I said, almost in tears now.

But they did. Not with my name, but as an unnamed “source” who was repeating what someone from KFC said. Everyone in my organization and at my client’s office knew it was me.

I was sick to my stomach all weekend, with that feeling of dread. We rushed out on Sunday and bought the paper, and my fears were confirmed. Now I was sick with the dread of losing my job the next day.

In the end, I didn’t get in trouble, but the memory has stayed with me. But I’m not sure I learned the lesson all that well. Even as recently as a month or two ago, something I emailed to a business associate came back to bite me in the butt. I just answered a question truthfully, but had I taken a few minutes to think about it, I might have answered differently. I should have given the minimum amount of information and provided more only on request. I should have remembered that not everyone needs to or even wants to know the whole story.

Maybe by the time I retire I will have learned this lesson. Of course, I’ll be 90 then, and at that age I should be able to say whatever the heck I want and people will just have to deal with it!


  1. OMG...I ALWAYS say too much...just yesterday as a matter of fact. Been kind of sick about it all day today...

  2. "no comment."
    "I have no recollection of that event."
    "I'm terribly sorry, but on the advice of counsel I must decline to answer that question."
    "I've never met that woman!"
    "It is a conspiracy and someone is out to get me!"
    "The voices in my head made me to do it."
    "I mean, no comment."

  3. i wasn't going to put "no comment" in the comments section here and be the funny haha girl ... but phillip not only said that but even more one liners .... and you know this happens all the time that you think of the perfect thing to say to someone about something and then the next thing you know someone else says it first and you're like oh my did he read my mind but really he was just faster to think it up or in this case he was reading the blog before i was because i was out i wen to julia's play it was the musical curtains and it was really really great and funny and it's amazing to me that high school kids can do something so amazing and professional seeming and it just took me three tries to spell professional ... oh that time it only took two tries .. that's one of those words i never can remember ... really, why does it NOT have two f's ... i'm not a great speller, but i'm pretty good ... just not at that word ... it's important to recognize what you are good at or not so good at ... and in the case of spelling i'm good but just good ... not great ... but everyone is great at something and you just have to figure out what it is ... i wish i were great at writing but i'm just good .... i try to get better, like you by doing this blog thing .... and blogging every day like you .... so maybe one day we'll both be great writers, right? aren't homonyms and homophones just the funniest words ever ... i like them ...

    so ... i wish phillip hadn't taken my no comment comment ... but i do get your post and sometimes saying too much ...