We always hear the older and wiser tell us to be careful not to burn our bridges. But as guys we let our egos scream louder and sometimes we think we need to stand our ground and speak our mind. And what do they know anyway?  I think most guys who have some life experience have probably experienced this or saw how close they were to experiencing it, only having avoided it by the luck of timing or choosing their words careful at the last moment.  If you haven’t had the joy of this experience let me illustrate the concept with my own experience that I stumbled upon recently.

When I was in college I amazingly found a job in my dream industry. I was able to get my foot in the door, work midnights, still complete school, and enjoy college life all in one. And it provided me with a full time paycheck when my largest bill was my bar tab.

Looking back it definitely benefited me to have that job. I received great training, met some great people, some of which I am still friends with today, and ultimately set me up to get to where I am today. But it was still a job so I had my own set of complaints about it. However, I’ve been removed from that job for almost ten years. I’ve moved across the country, done well with my career elsewhere and have created a good life for myself. So I look back and reminisce about the good times but don’t give it much thought past that.

Well a couple weeks ago, I attended a reunion of sorts back at college. Part of it included this division of the university having its own reunion because they had employed so many students over the years. I have to say was kind of excited to get back there and see some old faces and laugh about some old times.

I preface it by saying I did have a good time and got to see some old friends. BUT, I can’t count how many people who still work there brought up a bridge I apparently burnt some years back. In fact, I didn’t even remember the incident. But it was clear that many did, and that it made a lasting impression.

After I leave that job and moved away to take another job, I needed some training records from my former employer – in order to advance in my new job. When I contacted them and wasn’t getting the cooperation or answered that I needed I got fired up. (To be honest, I still don’t recall exactly what lit my fuse and I was afraid to ask anyone for more details because I didn’t want to wake a sleeping dragon). What I do remember is that I sent a company wide email. I vented my thoughts about everyone I couldn’t stand who worked there and everything I didn’t like about the company. I was pretty vocal because I was 24 and had nothing to lose.

I could have never imagined that I would continue to have contact with this people and this company throughout my life because of the closeness of my industry. And lucky for me, most of the recipients saw my view and where I was coming from, but I definitely didn’t think the plan through. Also some of my old friends have moved into management positions of that company so by their saving grace I was able to save face.

But you never know whom in your past you will need to contact and for what reason. People and jobs will come and go from your life. You don’t have to agree with all of them. And you don’t have to let anyone walk all over you. But think twice before you speak your mind. Not that you shouldn’t speak it, but think about how you will speak it. Because once it’s spoken, it still may not make a difference. So choose your battles. A true gentleman will smile and walk away.