I was snooping through my son’s middle school yearbook recently when I came across a disturbing inscription from a fellow classmate. This preteen had taken up an entire page to draw a schematic of a strip club, replete with a stick figure woman doing a pole dance and another stick figure woman giving a lap dance to a stick figure man. How do I know that he intended it to be a lap dance? Mercifully, he handwrote “lap dance” with an arrow pointing to the stick figures in question, just in case there was any doubt.
Why do I share this with you (other than so that you could revel in the chutzpah of a preteen being so wildly inappropriate in an inscription that would clearly be read by parents)?
As someone who often speaks before he thinks and can be emotional at times, I have developed these rules of self-censorship. Please feel free to suggest some rules of your own.
1. Reread. Before you hit send, reread what you have written. If something feels off, delete it. That goes for tweets and Facebook/Instagram posts as well.
2. Sleep on it. If you are writing an angry email response or post, sleep on it. See if the language feels right in the morning.
3. Hop on the phone. Don’t write about other people in a medium in which your words can easily be resent. For example, reference checks are better done over the phone unless they are perfunctory or glowing.
4. Does it pass The Wall Street Journal test? The test asks the following question: Would you feel comfortable if what you are doing, writing or saying shows up on the front page of The Wall Street Journal? If the answer is no, stop and rethink.
Oh, and if you are in middle school or high school and have some crazy friends, hide your yearbook from your parents.