Be Careful What You Write (and Say)—Don’t You Wish Everyone Learned This Lesson?


laptop-1149412_960_720This post concerns a pet peeve of mine. I really don’t understand some people. And by “some people” I mean everyone from Hillary Clinton to Colin Powell to the latest Afghani-American terrorist. They write things down that they never intended to become public.

Don’t they understand that in today’s world, nothing can be guaranteed to stay private? We may not like that aspect of our society, but it is the truth. A secret server won’t do it. Sending your inartfully drafted emails only to friends won’t do it. Not even a personal journal will stay private if there’s a reason to raid your home.

The lack of privacy isn’t limited to written words—even when the words are written only in the ether. Giving speeches to like-minded friends and followers is no guarantee that what we say will stay private, as Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney have learned to their chagrin. Whispering things to a friend in the airport security line can get you into trouble. Making comments when a dash cam is on can lead to criminal charges.

Whatever we say or write can come back to haunt us.

The sooner each of us learns that lesson, the better. And then, perhaps, we will be careful in what we say and write.

As I said, we may not like this aspect of our smart-phone always connected world, but we can’t change it. We should all show a little common courtesy and respect when talking about our enemies as well as our friends. We should all remember the old adage that if you can’t say (or write) something nice about someone, then don’t say (or write) it.

It is far better to be safe than sorry, to have refrained from speaking (or writing) than to be called on the carpet or embarrassed when our words return to bite us.

I can’t say I’m perfect in this regard. I’ve been embarrassed on occasion, more often by what I’ve said than by what I’ve written. I was trained early on that documents can be discovered. It’s only been a small step to recognize that now oral words can easily be made public as well.

As an attorney and an HR professional, I have always advised my clients and colleagues that if they didn’t want their mothers, the CEO or the media to hear or see their words, they shouldn’t use them.

Too bad so many people never learned this lesson.

When have you suffered because of something ill-advised you said or wrote?

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