It's hard to go through life without saying something foolish

Mind Matters | It's hard to go through life without saying something foolish

I recently did a few radio interviews about the effects of empathy training, which was a media topic due to the prime minister ordering an MP to get the training.

I said in the interviews that empathy training can be effective in a person who wants to learn.

I added that individuals can increase their empathy without training if they put persistent effort into it.

I later felt amazed at the foolish things I said during the interviews. In the first interview, instead of saying hello at the start, I said "Nice to talk with you." That expression belongs at the end, not at the start.

I may have been over-focused on the main message I wanted to deliver about empathy.

I corrected that greeting error in subsequent interviews.

Then I had another lapse. In saying that most men do not know how tough it can be for women, I mentioned the problem of a woman walking down a city street and hearing someone cat-call them.

For whatever reason, for an Australian radio station I did a perfect imitation of a low-class street guy in the Bronx.

Oh well. It is hard to go through life never saying anything foolish.

I cannot bear to reveal my personal worst behaviour in this regard, but here is one statement I would like to take back. At a meeting, I noticed another man had shaved his head. I told him he looked like Il Duce.

The man responded, "Who?' I said "Mussolini." Let's give me a 0 out of 100 for social performance that day.

In history knowledge I did well, though - Il Duce means "leader" in Italian.

But nowadays, it's only applied to Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy during World War II.

I am not usually an impulsive speaker. I can put a brake on my thoughts before they reach my mouth. But not that day.

If you look up foolish things that people have said online, you will find many amazing statements.

For instance, a woman said that she would never use a sperm donor to have a child because she could not be sure the child would speak English.

Famous foolish statements generally involve predictions that proved to be extremely wrong.

For instance, movie mogul Darryl Zanuck said in 1946: "Television won't last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."

Can you match me and these other folks with foolish statements you have made?

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Psychology, University of New England.

This story Mind Matters | It's hard to go through life without saying something foolish first appeared on The Canberra Times.