Wm. Shakespeare, Behavioral Psychologist

There are so many examples to choose among in the collected works that I might have to turn this into a series, but the one that’s been rattling around in my head this week is the following (from Hamlet, Act III, Scene II):

Hamlet.  Madam, how like you this play?
Queen.  The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Every time someone answers a simple question with an overly long and self-justifying response, this exchange runs through my head.

“Over-explaining” is a common result when people are reluctant to admit they don’t know something, or trying (too) hard not to accept responsibility for a mistake. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this myself — but the right answer is (almost) always to put down your shovel and stop digging.

P.S. — I’m not much of a bible scholar, but the spirit of this is similar to Proverbs 28:

The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.

Next time you’re tempted to dig yourself out of a hole with words — to flee when no man pursues — remember the words of the bard and shut your mouth.