When you say something can be even more important than what you say. My best personal example of that principle was when my wife, Laurie and I lived in Germany during the waning days of the Cold War. It was common to meet friends at the local Gasthaus where excellent German beer was cheaper than soda and the wine went down smoothly.
One Friday night down at the Gasthaus we ran into some friends and made a night of it. Laurie didn’t mention anything about my behavior that night to me. She didn’t chastise me about it the next morning. She waited until the afternoon when I had fully recovered my senses and asked a question: “Do you remember how you behaved last night?”
Sheepishly, I had to answer, “Yes.”
Her next question got my attention. “Do you want people to remember you that way?”
Wow. It was like being smacked between the eyes by a line drive. No, I did not want people to remember me that way. I wasn’t that rude guy. But when I had too much to drink, I was that guy. And because of the way she posed the question and her patience in waiting for the right moment, I thought about the question rather than going on the defensive.
Since that day I pace myself when I do have drinks with friends. I don’t miss the feeling of being drunk or the memories of my associated behavior. I’ll be forever grateful to Laurie for using the right words, at the right time.