Thursday, August 20, 2009

Your Words, Part 2: Impacting Others

Anyone who’s been bullied on the playground, gossiped about or berated by a mate or even boss can tell you that words hurt. They matter. Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can hurt you.

Words have hurt me. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t. Being called “black and ugly” in middle school caused a shame and inferiority that stayed with me long into adulthood. I don’t think the boys that did that to me intended to cause me lasting psychological or emotional harm but they did.

Words matter. And we can’t take them back. Things we say out of hurt, anger and frustration, linger. They make lasting impressions and we usually lash out verbally at those who are closest to us and who mean the most – our words ringing in their heads for days, weeks, months and even years.

Truthfully, we have all said things we have regretted. We’ve also been on the receiving end of those same kinds of words. Knowing how it feels to have hurtful words hurled at us should make us even more vigilant and determined not use those kinds of words with the ones we love and care about.

In the heat of the moment, when emotions are running high, sometimes it’s best to take a time out. A boxing round lasts for three minutes, and then both fighters retreat to their respective corners. When you feel yourself reaching that emotional crescendo, take a time out. Agree to pick up the discussion later. Walk away.

When you walk away, you have time to cool down and choose your words. Choose words that objectively state your feelings about the situation but stop short of name-calling, accusing and cursing.

When all else fails, and you react with cruel or unkind words, an apology helps. It won’t take back what you said, but showing that you realized that you overstepped a boundary can make a difference. Delivered with sincerity an apology can go a long way to showing that you really do care even though you let your emotions get the best of you.

Words are powerful. Let’s do our best to use our words to uplift and encourage those around us.