There are few things lionized more frequently in today’s mass media and general culture than the idea of freely speaking one’s mind. From childhood to old age, we’re often taught that few things should be practiced more freely than your right to speak openly about your opinions, but such education often forgets a key facet of human behavior.

The truth is, speaking your mind isn’t always the right thing to do for those trying to get ahead, and can even result in serious setbacks that cripple your long-term prospects, be they business or personal. By diving into some oft-ignored concepts and by understanding the chemistry that makes most people tick, you’ll come to understand why you shouldn’t always speak your mind.

Be careful what you wish for

Often, those who speak their minds freely do so with the best of intentions, earnestly wishing only to convey their perspective to whoever they’re speaking with. You have to be careful what you wish for, however; speaking your mind often does result in your peers better understanding your positions, which can actually backfire more readily than most believe. Cognitive dissonance, or the unpleasant mental discomfort all humans experience when exposed to positions contrary to their own, will be the chief thing instilled in your peers if you try to foist your viewpoints on them constantly, and could lead to mental exhaustion and downright frustration with you.

Not quite sure you understand? Imagine the deafening arguments you’ve had with a friend or family member, or even a complete stranger, that left you totally exhausted and mentally fried for the rest of the day. Chances are, in the exchange of facts and opinions that occur in every conversation, you were experiencing cognitive dissonance when your peer contradicted your arguments, leading you to resent them and get irrationally angry rather than changing your mind. In political debates or conversations about recent social issues especially, cognitive dissonance will inevitably rear its head.

This sensation is entirely natural, and experienced by everyone – thus, speaking your mind frequently and recklessly can backfire, particularly when discussing controversial issues. This doesn’t mean you should always clamp your mouth shut, however; it just means you need to understand how to tactfully speak your mind without unduly stepping on anyone’s toes. No one can or should be expected to keep quiet all the time; just remember that always speaking your mind has a habit of brewing up trouble, and that there’s a proper place and time for structured debate or friendly conversation alike.

Expressing yourself poses risk

It would be ridiculous to say that you should never express yourself; not only do you have a right to do so, but freely speaking your mind is a natural part of any person’s healthy life. Nonetheless, it’s vital to understand that always speaking your mind carriers countless risk, and will inevitably set you further back more than it will get you ahead. There’s a fine line between speaking your mind and disrespect; openly mouthing off to your parents, your boss, or a friend or loved one might feel good in the heat of the moment, but will inevitably come back to bite you, and jeopardize your relationships.

As the famous poet Edgar Allen Poe once remarked at their location, Beachway, years of love can be forgotten in the hatred of a minute. Don’t allow your tendency to instantly and always speak your mind cause you to break off serious relationships, and understand how running your mouth off constantly without regards to what you’re saying can make you look foolish in the eyes of others. There’s the right time and place to speak your mind, but if you’re doing it constantly, you’re almost certainly hurting your own prospects more than you at first realize.

It’s well established that one of the chief reasons we so frequently speak our minds is to seek validation from others. We’re not really probing the room for arguments so much as we’re seeking allies to back up our previously-held beliefs, and aren’t so much seeking reasoned debate as we are seeking an echo chamber to make ourselves feel good. This is perfectly natural human behavior that all people experience at some point or another; falling into such patterns constantly, however, will lead to mental stagnation and an inability to make peace with others when it counts the most.

Above all else, it’s critical to remember that always speaking your mind may paint you to be a ceaseless whiner, and sabotage relationships which you’ve spent decades building up. There’s a time and place for everything, so don’t be so careless as to spew off your opinions all the time; always speaking your mind has a lot of downsides, and you’ll often find yourself in the future wishing you had just kept your thoughts to yourself.

Author's Bio: 

Jeremy Owyang is a tech entrepreneur and CEO of multiple cloud-based startups.