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Outside vs. Inside Voice – You Can’t Take It Back!

Group Of Business People With Their Mouths Taped Shut

I had a run in with the District Manager at a large retail account of mine many years ago. We had “philosophical differences” regarding my coverage of one of their stores, and one incident in particular upset him.

My relationship was less than solid with that location’s management team, and I received very little support from the sales associates. During my third year working with the account, the senior manager requested that I conduct another product knowledge meeting for his team on a Saturday morning. I had done that type of training before, but had become frustrated by their lack of support.

I will never forget what I said to him in response to his request that I take time out of my weekend to do training. My wording was all wrong. I said that I would not receive the “bang for the buck” to go and train his team now, and would wait until I received more support from them.

I did not mean for it to come out that way, but it did, and I had to live with the consequences. I remember the rest of the story like it was yesterday. I was numb all over and I felt like I was going to throw up! He stormed in to his office, and started dialing the phone to my regional office. I swear there was smoke coming out of his ears! It was after 4 pm, and my General Manager had typically left by then. But as fate would have it, he was still in the office that day!

By this time I had walked in to his office, I was pleading for him to get off the phone so we could work through the issue together. He was requesting a new sales rep from my General Manager (while I was standing right in front of him). To my General Manager’s credit, he was able to calm him down, and I was able to talk things through with my boss the next day. My management team knew this man quite well, and was aware that he was not my favorite person. I explained my side of the story, and eventually was able to convince the store’s District Manager to keep me on as the rep for both locations.

I was not worried about losing the underperforming branch, but was terrified to lose the local branch that I had worked so diligently to grow over the years. To say the least, I choose my words very carefully in the future, to avoid other conflicts.  I retained both branches, but the weaker place never met my expectations.

It is difficult to keep your emotions in check and not say what is on your mind in certain situations. But using your “outside voice” instead of your “inside voice” can have negative ramifications, especially if you catch somebody on a bad day! I learned that the hard way. I will never forget that feeling deep in the pit of my stomach when I almost lost one of my biggest accounts right before my eyes!

  • Have you ever wished you had used your “inside voice” rather than your “outside voice” in a specific situation during your career?
  • If so, what were the results of you speaking out loud?

Email me at to share your story, and I will post the best response on my blog next week!