Most of us retain a special mental file for off-hand remarks. At various times in the past few weeks, I've recalled comments by drill sergeants, lawyers, coaches, judges, fifth-grade classmates, firefighters, college professors, and a Russian scientist, just to name a few. The remarks were not the main topic of the conversation but they stayed with me long after the main topic faded.
What has impressed me is how an off-hand remark can have the power to affect one's life. Decisions concerning the famous "road not taken" can be influenced by information or opinions gleaned from off-hand remarks. The image or reputation of a person can be permanently - and perhaps unfairly - shaped by such observations.
My conclusion is twofold: Never underestimate the effect of an off-hand remark and be alert to decisions which may be unduly influenced by them.