Whether it’s during a mediation, staff meeting or family gathering with that cousin you don’t like very much, when you’re involved in a conversation or discussion and are thinking about adding your two cents worth, you’ll notice those little green and red lights in your head. They tell you when to talk and not to talk. The Muse has some suggestions on how to fine tune these speaking traffic lights.

There are always people jumping into conversations at the wrong time, perhaps you’re one of them. You may feel a need to correct something or add your perspective on an issue. Whoever that person is if they’re not doing it right they’re probably seen by others as inconsiderate and obnoxious. Whatever value they could have added to the conversation, may be discounted by the negative feeling created by the method of their communication.

The discussion may be needlessly dragging on or flying off into uncharted territory. Do you commit the same sin and cut that person off to get things back on track and risk being seen as another condescending know-it-all? The article has some suggestions on how to best decide when to jump in and when to cool your jets during a discussion.

  1. Sharing a Fact or Opinion?

What will you be sharing? If you want to set the record straight on an incorrect number or how to properly pronounce your name, for example, you’re justified in offering a correction. If you’re just planning on getting on your soapbox to share your wisdom, you’re usually better off sitting tight and quietly.

  1. Am I Credible?

We’re much more likely to listen to and respect advice and criticism from those who have some authority and credibility in a particular area. The more credibility and authority you have on the topic the more welcome your remarks.

  1. Does This Issue Concern Me?

Does the situation at issue actually concern you? Does it relate to your job, work or life? If not are you just stating an opinion for the sake of offering an opinion? If an issue doesn’t involve you, you may be missing a lot of the facts. If you speak up you may just look like you’re sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong without really knowing what’s going on.

  1. What’s the Impact of Staying Quiet?

Perhaps most importantly, what’s the worst that can happen if you keep your mouth shut? If it’s a small issue that has little or no impact, there’s not much downside to keeping your rectification of the conversation to yourself. If the issue is important to you, such as correcting a big miscommunication about a client’s needs or desires, it’s probably best that you do what you need to do to raise awareness and resolve the issue. It is important to weigh the outcomes, the benefits as well as the costs of staying quiet.

You need to balance the danger of being an obnoxious know-it-all who is too willing to share but you also you don’t want to be the one allowing major problems and errors to just slip by. If you can mull over these four questions during the conversation or negotiation you may have a better chance to know when to speak up and when to shut up.