Picture an emotionally charged court room. A deafening hush has fallen over the entire spectacle, from the anxious, restless jury to the thrill-seeking spectators.
The Prosecuting attorney strides up to the accused perpetrator, extends a critical finger in his direction and almost screams: “Isn’t it true that you and the victim were involved in a Ponzi scheme some 10 years ago?!”
Defense bolts out of his seat. “Objection, your Honor! That question is irrelevant and immaterial!”
The wizened old judge responds. “Objection sustained. The jury will disregard that question.”
Oh, REALLY?! (We’ve now left the courtroom, by the way). As a result of the judge’s directive, the jury will now totally ignore the question, not even considering the possibility that the victim and the accused had a history of illegitimate dealings?!
Of course, forgetting the question is exactly what each and every juror must do, but here’s the sticky bit: They all just heard it! Of course, they can (and should) consciously seek to ignore this potential bit of “evidence,” but the seed has now been planted by the wily Prosecuting attorney.
THIS is why you shouldn’t say “Quote – Unquote.” Once it’s been heard (or read), it’s too late. Oh, you can back pedal a bit, work up some reasonable explanation, provide some additional information to soften the blow, seek to ameliorate the damage that’s been rendered, perhaps even recover somewhat from your verbal (or written) faux pas.
But wouldn’t it have been better if you’d taken a little more time before you opened your mouth or started typing? I sometimes think we should invoke the “7 second delay” used by radio stations to allow time to expunge inappropriate words, indiscreet statements, etc. before they get on the air or out in cyberspace.
I once had a wise college professor, Dr. Carl Cassell, who admonished us to “never say ‘Unquote,’ only say ‘End quote’,” since once it’s out there, you can’t make it go away! It’s simply not possible to “unquote” something that you just “quoted.”
This sage advice can apply to all communications, from phone conversations, tweets, online posts and emails to interviews and presentations. As I tweeted recently, “Measure twice, cut once” is not only good advice for carpentry. How about this? “Think twice, speak once.”
I even found corroborating evidence from the Apostle in James 1:19: “Be quick to hear, slow to speak.”
Good advice. And you can quote me on it!