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The story goes that a hostess once approached Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States, and said, You must talk to me, Mr. President. I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you. Coolidge replied, You lose.

It is not necessary to be as thrifty with words as Silent Cal was, but saying less in a business situation is often more desirable than saying more. And, like less talk, less action is also better for your career than the misdirected kind. French essayist Jean de La Bruyere observed 300 years ago, We seldom regret talking too little, but very often talking too much. This is a well-known maxim which everybody knows and nobody practices. People havent changed much since then.

It is often true that the less said, the better. Your peers and bosses respect those who choose their words carefully and comment at the appropriate time after listening attentively to the thoughts of others. Those who speak constructively come across as solid, helpful and intelligent. But those who run off at the mouth at every opportunity will only be tolerated, and the value of their suggestions will be minimized.

As Benjamin Franklin said in Poor Richards Almanack, A soft tongue may strike hard. When a respected person makes a comment in the business world, he or she knows that it is not necessary to be loud, agitated or overly passionate.

A calm, thoughtful demeanor is most effective. English writer William Hazlitt noted that, A person who talks with equal vivacity on every subject, excites no interest in any.

And there are times when taking less or no action is also best, particularly when it applies to our own behavior.

In the business world, taking almost any action is usually considered desirable because the lack of action might have even worse consequences. We agree with this basic concept, but there are some personal situations in which taking no action is actually better.

For example, we should avoid dwelling on or seeming overly obsessed with petty details and incidents. Our career will be affected if we gain the reputation of a person who is frequently bogged down with insignificant matters. Successful people rise above the small stuff.

Crying wolf or habitually arguing and whining about trivial problems wastes energy and reduces credibility. Instead, we should channel our efforts toward activities which might generate more positive payoffs.

If a person is biased in our favor or is somehow indebted to us, we should be careful how we collect. Calling in these chips to resolve insignificant situations can dilute help which might be badly needed later. Lets save our chips for the big ones.

Finally, we need to choose our business fights carefully, picking only those which can be won. Disagreeing with someone is not always that important in the big picture. If winning such a battle would not have a positive effect on the profitability of the company or on our own career, forget it. Its not worth it.

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