April 11, 2015

How Words Have Emotional Impact

So many words and situations are a landmine of emotion these days. It’s possible to hear a phrase, or even one word, and immediately pass judgment. For that reason, a minimum of words can hold a wealth of meaning.

Abraham Lincoln’s iconic Gettysburg Address was approximately 272 words long and lasted a little over two minutes. At least one speech given that day lasted over two hours. Which presentation is most remembered today?

Even a few words are especially powerful within the framework of our life experience. Consider these politically and/or socially charged monikers:
  • Illegal immigrant 
  • The “F-word” (No, I’m not going to type it.) 
  • Terrorist
I propose how an individual reacts to the above labels depends on their value system, training, and life experience. Many humans will find the above words offensive, while others won’t. Let’s face it, we don’t all think alike; that’s a fact.

Cases of People Who had Different Viewpoints
  • Caroline is a friend who laughs at (or points out) every mistake or misspelling people make. She thinks she’s having fun, or helping people. Others may consider she’s disrespecting them.
  •  Many people have called out “You’re short!” to me throughout my life. They may mean this as a simple statement of fact. (In which case, why should they even bother to say it? I have a mirror. I know what I look like!) However, I take it as a criticism because my height was the subject of bullying throughout my entire school career.
  • The other day, authorities blocked off part of a highway because of a horrific car accident. As a result, I was stuck in a left-turn lane from which I couldn’t navigate. I was supposed to drive into one of the lanes on my right and go straight. A police officer was directing traffic. He didn’t stop the oncoming cars speeding up behind me, but he repeatedly motioned me to merge to the right. I refused to do so until all the automobiles had passed me. He wanted to keep traffic moving. I wanted to keep my body all in one piece. Wouldn’t you?
  • I recently wrote a review for a certain book. Becky, a friend of mine, read the material and felt some of my language appeared judgmental of the author. She expected completely positive comments. My writing was complimentary, but she took issue with a few words. I later found out that the author of the book had not felt I was judging her (the author) at all. One person’s “information” is another person’s “judgment”. Again, it’s all in the framework of reference.

My Conclusion

We aren’t all “wired” alike. If an individual “doesn’t see a problem” with a certain attitude, another person might.  It’s all a matter of perception--lifestyle and training. In the end, we shouldn’t put out there (in person or online) what we wouldn’t want to hear/read about ourselves. In other words, we should follow The Golden Rule, which is common across most value systems and religions:

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