What You Say Means More Than You Think (written June, 1994)

Admittedly we are in a sometimes “shady” business. Fortunately there are mostly good people, but unfortunately like everything else in life there are some shady characters too. However just because some people are shady, please be careful what you say about everyone else. A few bad apples do not ruin the bunch.

Here’s a friendly lesson. There was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper to hammer a nail into the back fence. The first day the boy had driven 30 nails into the fence. Then it gradually dwindled down as he discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and his father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.

As the days passed and the young boy kept holding his temper, he was able to tell his father proudly that all the nails were gone. So the father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done very well my son and I am very proud of you that you learned to hold your temper, but look at the holes in the fence. You see the fence will never be the same. So when you say things angrily in the future be careful. They leave a scar just like these holes.”

I think too many good people in this business get frustrated all too easy for common problems and common mistakes. Then unfortunately they say things in anger and consequently, leave unnecessary scars. Hey! You can put a knife into a man’s heart and draw it out. It wouldn’t matter how many times you say you are sorry,  the wound is still there and it never will go away.

When you run a business, problems happen. How you handle them make the difference. Not every mailing will succeed. Not every program will succeed.  Not everybody will be as enthusiastic about your program and what you are doing as you are. These types of situations happen every day in every business. That does not mean everybody is a jerk and/or you are a failure. All it means is that another common typical adverse situation has occurred and it needs to be overcome. Before you criticize someone else or even yourself in anger please remember, a verbal wound is just as bad as a physical wound.  Friends are a very rare jewel indeed. Friends make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear. They share a word of praise. They always want to open their hearts to us. Be a friend and always show your friends how much you care about them and hold your temper, your anger and your words.

Please apply this lesson to our wonderful business. Don’t speak badly of someone you don’t know and if someone speaks badly of another, think about the nails in the fence. That leaves scars that can never be repaired. We can make this business of ours a more wonderful place if we all learn to be friends, help each other and learn to keep our mouths closed in moments of adversity.

The author of this article is Larry Costello, President of All-American Print & Mail, 2200 Wilson Blvd #102-57, Arlington, VA 22201.