August 28, 2015

Why Words can Hurt or Heal

“You’re too slow!”
“I asked you to clean your room two hours ago!”
“I thought everybody knew how to do that.”
“That project was due two days ago. What’s keeping you?”
“I don’t see how you’re going to be able to do that.”
“That’s sloppy/lazy____(fill in the blank)”

If those statements were directed at you, how would you feel? My guess is that sensitive individuals would feel one of two reactions: a dark, panicky feeling; or, a dark, seething anger. In either case, you obviously wouldn’t feel empowered or uplifted. You would feel the light drain out of your body. How is that helpful to anyone?

Your own Communication: Problem, or Solution?

In my last blog post, I mentioned a relative named Carol. She and I have had dysfunctional communication for about two decades. I have never understood her aggressive need to impetuously “tell it like it is” without considering the lava flow of ill will likely to result. To me, it’s rude and immature. It’s doesn’t show wisdom, and it has almost ruined our relationship at least once. 

Her underlying message to me is, “You’re inadequate.” Now, I ask you, is that empowering? Does that make me believe in myself and want to try harder?

A Useful Message: “You’re not Good Enough”?

In my book, Accept No Trash Talk: Overcoming the Odds,  I mention many situations in which some people offend others. These people wish to communicate quickly, and they don’t consider the long-term effects of speaking before they weigh their words. I mention cases of authority figures who cause years of mental trauma to those under their supervision.

These authorities seem to condemn rather than merely correct people. In other words, they make people feel generally worthless rather than letting individuals know, specifically, how they would like the individuals to change. I suggest that criticism is not a good motivator; it’s a de-motivator.

How Can we Boost Enriching Communication?

The Book of Proverbs in the Bible has many useful quotes on the importance of words. The fundamental theme is that words are so powerful that we must weigh the consequences of our words, good or bad, before we speak them:

Proverbs 10:11
“The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life; but violence overtaketh the mouth of the wicked.”
Proverbs 16:23
“The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.”
Proverbs 13:3
“He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life; but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.”
Proverbs 15:1
“A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger.
Proverbs 10:31
“The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom; but the forward tongue shall be cut out.”
Proverbs 18:21
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue; and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”

My Conclusion

Words are literal weapons of the mind. They are always creative forces.  Every bit of communication creates light (life), or darkness (death). The effects last longer than many physical wounds. That’s why it’s so important that every person considers their words before they speak. Wouldn’t you rather a person build you up with kindness than suck the life out of you with cruel words? Hello?! Everybody else feels that way, too!

Did you create life or death today (with your words, with your words!)?

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