It stands for keep mouth shut and it is an acronym that I use with myself often when I am tempted to say too much, need to listen rather than respond, speak out of anger or frustration, dominate a conversation or when dealing with people who are argumentative, arrogant or obnoxious.

Wise people guard their tongues. What we say or how we say it is more likely to get us into trouble than anything else as James reminds us in talking about our tongue. As we mature we ought to learn to speak less, listen more, ask questions rather than make pronouncements, keep our own counsel and be circumspect with our words. It goes against our natural tendency to speak quickly, defend our positions carelessly and respond out of emotion rather than a considered response. 

Think about the person who speaks seldom in a meeting but when they do everyone listens because they speak wisdom. And then think of the individual who speaks often and dominates the conversation but without much wisdom. The first has learned the KMS principle and in practicing it they think before they speak and in doing so they actually contribute more by speaking less. 

Leaders are tempted to speak too much rather than ask questions and listen to others. They are tempted to give quick answers rather than allow people to come to their own conclusions or let a group process work. The temptation comes from their ability to quickly analyze, for some to be the center of attention, and their leadership position. Of all people, those who lead need to remind themselves to KMS often. To the extent that they dominate the conversation, give the answers and make pronouncements, they dis-empower other members of the team. Even if they know they are right, speaking less will get them further.

Those who choose to listen more than talk, ask questions rather than pronouncements or not to be the center of attention are displaying humility rather than pride, a secure rather than needy makeup and good emotional intelligence (EQ). 

I have been known to use a post it note with KMS written on it as a reminder when going into a potentially contentious meeting. I know my own tendencies and the wisdom of keeping quiet in many situations where I could otherwise speak unwisely. How are you doing with the KMS principle?
  • May 25, 2011
  • Category: News
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