Sometimes, ‘Saying Absolutely Nothing’ is a sure-fire recipe for success

"What I was going to say .... was nothing"

“What I was going to say was…. nothing”

I have a client who’s become a friend. Yes, it actually happens in real life. You too could love a consultant if you knew one for long enough. Anyway, she was on a major fitness programme. Long swims, bike rides, gym workouts. This determined woman was on a mission to recapture her former, svelte self (that’s a long queue, right there).

Riding Accident: It was a cool Sunday morning in Stillorgan. Following a steep hill climb, somewhat exhausted, she had a pedal malfunction and fell over the handlebars of the bike. Result = broken fingers, facial lacerations, dented dignity.  Later that day, the Orthopedic Surgeon seemed competent and in control. He’d seen it all before. She asked: “When do you think I’ll be able to get going on the fitness regime again?”  He replied: “Now, now, take it easy. After all, the older lady takes longer to heal”. Are you familiar with the expression ‘fit to be tied’? She laughed (afterwards) and we had a fun conversation around ‘what was the worst thing ever said to you?’

Dental Block:  My personal favourite was the local dentist in Clontarf who has a reputation for being grumpy.  As I was sitting in his high chair, he asked: “Do you know what ‘getting long in the tooth’ means”.  I mumbled ‘YYYYY-esh’ (it’s hard to communicate with a mouthful of Novocain without sounding like a Dutch porn star). Then he held a huge mirror in front of my face and explained how gums recede as you age. Educational? Yes. Helpful? No (did I mention he was my former-Dentist?).

Truth Telling: There are some people who seem to pride themselves on ‘being authentic’. They use phrases like “I don’t do politics” and “I tell it like it is”.  In her recently published book Your Brand, the consultant Veronica Canning said that she often asks people who make similar claims: “And how is that working out for you?” Unless you learn how to become socially skillful you continually bump into invisible barriers. For sure, you can trade on brainpower. A high IQ is a good thing. If it’s high enough and if you can find a job that’s lonely enough, it might work out fine. But most of us have to learn to negotiate human relations in the same way we learn to manoeuvre when driving. Of course, now and again you break this rule. You deliberately stand up and confront bad service, bullying or unethical practice. You decide that straight-talking is called for and you don’t shy away. But Jesus, not all of the time. Cool the jets!

When in doubt: There are some topics in the world where you just don’t go (‘old’, ‘fat’ and ‘bald’ are good for starters). Perhaps we should take our lead from that great management philosopher Ronan Keating when he sings:“You say it best, when you say nothing at all”. Sometimes, being really clever, is knowing when to sing dumb.


PS: Here’s a couple of ‘mother jokes’ to kick-start the week…

There’s a big controversy around the question of when life actually begins. In the Jewish Matriarchal tradition, the foetus is not considered viable until it graduates from Law School.

Q: How many Irish mothers does it take to change a light bulb?

A: (Sigh) “Don’t bother. I’ll sit in the dark.  I don’t want to be a nuisance to anybody.”

PPS: Ok, Ok.  It’s Monday again. I know. You require something a bit ‘edgier’ to kick-start the week.  Try this one from the ever-resourceful Kevin Griffin.

Subject: One Tequila, Two Tequila, Three Tequila, Floor!

A man  walks into a bar, notices a very large jar on  the counter filled to the brim with $10  bills.  He guesses there must be at least  ten thousand dollars in it. He  approaches the bartender and asks, “What’s with the money in the jar?”    

“Well, you pay $10 and, if you pass three tests, you get all the money in the jar and the keys to a new Lexus.” The man  certainly isn’t going to pass this up, so he asks:

“What’s the three tests?”                                                          

“You gotta pay first,” says the bartender, “those are the rules.”      

After thinking it over, the man gives the bartender $10 which he stuffs in the  jar.

“Okay,”  says the bartender, “here’s what you need to do: First, you have to drink a quart of tequila, in 60 seconds or  less, and you can’t make a  face while doing it. Second, there’s a pit bull chained in the back  with a  bad tooth. You have to remove that tooth with your bare hands. Third, there’s a 93-year old lady upstairs who’s never had sex.  You have to take care of that problem.”                                      

The man  is stunned!  “I know I paid my $10  — but I’m not an idiot!  I  refuse!  You’d have to be nuts to drink that amount of tequila and do those awful things!”                                            

“Your call,” says the bartender, “but, your money  stays where it is.” As time  goes on, the man has a few more drinks and finally says,  “Where’s the damn tequila?”                                              

He grabs the bottle with both hands and drinks it as fast as he can.  Tears stream down both cheeks – but he doesn’t make a  face and polishes it off in 58 seconds! Next, he staggers out the back door where he sees the pit bull chained to a pole.  Soon, the people  inside the bar hear loud growling, screaming, and the sounds of a  terrible fight – then nothing but silence!

Just  when they think that the man surely must be dead, he staggers back  into the bar.  His clothes are ripped to shreds and he’s  bleeding from  bites and gashes all over his  body.  He drunkenly says, “Now, where’s that woman with the bad tooth?”  

Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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