One of the most powerful weapons we possess in life is our mouth. It can speak life or death. It can bring about positive affirmations in the world or tear those around us down. Few people truly understand the life-giving powers that words flowing from their mouths can have. Even fewer carefully consider the effects their spoken words have.
Nowadays, everyone is quick to spout opinions in the form of the written word. Everyone else is prepared to quickly lash out at those words.
Words are weapons, people. Unfortunately, I have committed the crime of not thinking before I speak. In some instances, it created a temporary chasm in a relationship. In one terrible occurrence, it completely ended a long-standing friendship. In defense, when a person cannot accept an apology based on a decade of good behavior there’s more at play than one slip of the tongue, but I digress.
In a 2014 article on Huffington Post, Dr. Hyder Zahed stated it so accurately:
“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”
Let’s learn to use them more wisely. More importantly, having actions that line up with your words is critical to solid life relationships. Read on for a few thoughtful considerations to use before unnecessarily using words that harm, inadvertently or not.
1. We’ve all heard it before, but it can never be said too much ~ Think before you speak. All too often, if a conversation gets the least bit difficult someone may ‘lash out’ and speak in anger or fear or disagreement. Those moments are most likely to wound. Ideally, if you’re about to say something that helps no one, you would say ‘we need to continue this conversation later’. That isn’t always possible.
At a very minimum, you should stop, breathe for three seconds and finish a count to ten in your mind before saying he first thought. My trouble is . . .‘words enter brain and immediately exit mouth’. Give yourself a few seconds before allowing weapons to spew from your mouth.
2. Plan a difficult conversation in your mind beforehand. If you have the luxury of preparing for a conversation you know could get tense, try to run through possible responses in your mind. Consider how the other person might be feeling about the conversation and imagine the worst things they might say and think of a few statements that would help the conversation go more smoothly.
If you don’t have the chance to mentally prep, then be prepared to stall. Not to say always expect the worst, but be prepared to actively suggest postponing the talk if things do go south.
3. Finally, ALWAYS make sure your actions line up with your words. A few examples of how statements don’t line up with actions are below. Pardon me . . but they come from a place of experience as a serial singleton and work toxicity survivor.
a. A boss who advocates thinking outside the box in his spoken word, yet anytime an idea slightly outside the micromanagement norm is suggested, the response is ‘no way. We’ve worked this way for years.’ (you might guess I speak from personal experience here)
b. A manager who verbally states the door is always open, but regularly sends out emails stating, ‘unless something is a dire emergency, do not come to me with requests.’ A time frame is given, but it might be several days long.
c. In dating relationships, we’ve heard it all. “Yes, let’s get together this weekend” is said but you don’t receive an actual invitation until Saturday afternoon at 4:00pm. Or “let me get through a couple days of this busy rush” and you don’t hear back for two weeks.
Look, you need to just back and stay away from people who make statements like that without following through. Those actions are not at all lining up with those words and likely never will.
Again, words can help, heal, hinder, hurt, harm, humiliate or humble. Words are weapons. Wield them wisely.
There’s an acronym that floats across LinkedIn from time to time. WAIT. (Why Am I Talking?). It gives some succinct advice for when and when not to contribute. In a world where there’s so much noise and dialogue, there are some great pieces of advice. When you’re about to offer input, ask yourself:
1. Is what I’m about to say pertinent?
2. Is what I’m about to say kind?
3. Will it be helpful to the person I’m speaking with?
If any or all of those are true, then by all means…share what’s on your mind. If they aren’t true or you’ve been saving what you needed to say to a statement made five sentences ago, refer to ‘think before you speak’.
We can all be better communicators and that means listening twice as much as you talk.
Speak wisely today, friends.