Lesson 11: Develop a mind-mouth filter

Get one.  Plain and simple.  For me, the military mindset worked when I was in the military.  NEWS FLASH FOR ME! I am not in the military anymore.  Whatever worked in the past, in different circumstances, you have to learn to adjust.  The mentality, attitudes, and language were understandable back then, in those circumstances.  Maybe it is even all well and good when you are talking to the guys or gals you are friends with.  It is another thing entirely  to treat the love of your life with a faulty arrogance that is actually rude, despicable, uncalled for, dispassionate behavior.

Every situation in life depends on the context.  That includes actions, demeanor, the way you carry yourself, how you interpret the things around you, and how you behave or respond to things.  The mind-mouth filter, whether you know it or not, applies to all contexts.  Even in an encounter when some vulgarity or fowl language might be acceptable, take a moment to think about it.  When someone around you is swearing, ask yourself how smart you think they really are.  What purpose does vulgarity serve?  Do you believe it enhances the conversation?  

As a veteran, fowl language and vulgarity was more than a second language, it was a part of the one and only language I knew how to use.  It becomes something of a coping mechanism when dealing with the harshness of the realities you are constantly facing.  In order to continue functioning as a member of the military, you are forced to determine ways to come face to face with these realities and carry out your task, regardless of how bad things are.  It becomes second nature.  The hardships can be unimaginable.  You reach a point when you don’t even notice the difference.  It is even more difficult trying to separate yourself from this past.      

While awful and tragic, that is no excuse to continue that behavior once you are out.  Once you are out, it is important to learn to embrace the new realities.  It was bad enough that you went through these hardships.  It is even understandable, to an extent, having to use such philosophies and attitudes to get through difficult times.  Eventually, you have to ask yourself what purpose it continues to serve afterward, other than to demonstrate a complete lack of compassion and an absence of social decency.  All it takes is a little discipline and empathy to make the changes necessary to be a decent human being.  

Not everyone has a military background to attribute their raunchy sense of humor or more extreme beliefs and social behaviors.  Maybe it was a rough neighborhood, a tough job, poor family surroundings, the list can go on.  I am not saying that your background doesn’t matter.  I am saying that it isn’t a reasonable or acceptable excuse when it comes to your relationships.  Especially a romantic relationship.  It is difficult to make changes, especially when it comes to behavior that you have developed over a long period of time, but it is doable.

Any time you start a new job, make a new friend, enter a new experience, you are starting from scratch.  These are where you need to employ some adaptability.  You don’t have to keep quiet, but it might be prudent to hang back and hold your tongue in the beginning.  Pay attention to the people around you.  Who is smiling and who is not?  What are the more common words you are hearing?  Ask who has been around the longest and then see if they would be willing to discuss the culture of the environment and the things that might need to be avoided.  Ask questions and don’t assume that everyone is on the same page as you.

The longer you spend in any environment, the easier it is to adjust your communication and behavior to match what is acceptable.  You might be thinking “Why should I have to change just because other people don’t get it?”  The truth is, you don’t have to.  It is entirely up to you.  The other truth is that people don’t have to like or accept you.  The more important question you should be thinking about is “What is it that I want from this (environment, relationship, interaction, etc.)?”  When you know that, adapting becomes a whole lot easier.

Your background is irrelevant when it comes to being a tolerable person in any civilized society.  It is behavioral conditioning, nothing more.  Conditioning can be altered by conditioning yourself to be better.  There is no excuse for being a jerk.  There is no excuse.  It only seems like it will take a large amount of effort to not laugh at something inappropriate or make that comment that was concocted to cause laughs or get a rise out of people at someone else’s expense.  Know when to speak.  More importantly, know when to keep your mouth shut.


  1. Situations depend on the context
  2. Think before you speak
  3. Learn to adapt
  4. Don’t assume anyone thinks like you do
  5. Know when to keep your mouth shut


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