Lesson 2: Learn when to shut up.
Plenty of times in life will arise when you are asked or have the opportunity to speak on a subject. You may think you know what to say, you may have the answer, and you might even be right, but that is not always what matters. The key in any situation is knowing when it is a good idea to speak up, and when it is more beneficial to keep your mouth shut.
There will be times, situations will occur, when knowing the right answer and sharing it can be a fast route to unnecessary trouble. It is important in life to be truthful, but that does not always mean that the truth needs to be shared. Sometimes, it is much better for everyone involved, to let the situation be what it is and not attempt to influence what everyone else thinks about it.
The first core value of the United States Air Force is “integrity first,” but there were plenty of times when I, and others around me, spoke up or told the truth about a situation, and everything got worse as a result. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that if you are going to speak up, it should be the right thing to say and possess the maximum amount of truth, based on your understanding of the situation. But, keeping your mouth shut is not the same thing as lying.
There are plenty of occasions when a question will be asked, or any kind of inquiry will be made, that an answer or the truth is not actually being sought. How many times have you been in a conversation where there was nothing you could possibly say that would have any positive impact because the other person(s), already had their mind made up or were just asking a question as a mere formality?
It is important to be able to identify and interpret these situations. There is a famous ideology stating “Sometimes, less is more.” This is equally true in most aspects relating to military life. Sometimes, the absolute smartest thing you can possibly say is nothing. Using fewer words does not mean, or make you stupid. How could it? It is only when you do speak that people can say for certain that you very likely have no clue what it is you are talking about.