Use Your Words Wisely!

May 30, 2011

This week I wanted to reflect on the power of our words, and how they can affect the people around us, and us too.


I often think about something my mom used to tell me when I was a child (she still does every now and then!).

When I was angry or upset, she used to tell me to turn my tongue 7 times inside my mouth before I said something that I would later regret. She also told me that the words I said were out and nothing could take them back.

When we are carried away by negative emotions like hurt, anger, frustration, sadness, etc. we can say things we don't mean, and we can hurt people we love. We later regret what we said and often realize it was unnecessary or exaggerated.

But let alone the times when we are feeling emotionally down, there are many other times when we need to watch our words, because our words are powerful, they carry in them energy, and they can reach much further than we think, they can soothe or hurt, they can heal or damage, they can build or destroy. The choice is OURS.

This reminds me also of an old story, attributed to Socrates, and it goes like this:

One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher, and said, "Do you know what I just heard about your friend?"

To which Socrates replied: "Before you say anything it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you are going to say. I call it The Three Filter Test, if you pass one of the filters, you can tell me"

The first filter is TRUTH.
"Are you sure what you are about to tell me is true?" Socrates asked.
"No," the man said, "I just heard about it

The second filter is GOODNESS.
"Is what you are about to tell me something good?" questioned Socrates.
"No, not really"

The third filter is USEFULNESS.
"Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?"
"No, not really"     

Socrates kindly told the man: "If what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, then maybe you shouldn't tell me at all."

This story makes me think of gossip, it is usually unnecessary and negative, so it is a good idea to restrain from taking part in it, since it doesn't serve any purpose.

Another area you may want to catch your words is when you criticize or label people without really knowing anything about them, sometimes we are quick to criticize the way someone looks, the way they drive, the way they dance, talk, act, etc. or we label them as idiots, loosers, dumb... and other negative adjectives. This too, is unnecessary and creates negative energy around us.

The language we use with our own children needs to be carefully watched, for negative language can have long-term negative consequences. I won't get into the developmental psychology here, but just to give you an example, telling a child that he is BAD (labeling him negatively), is very damaging to his self esteem. You can change the wording and say: "what you did is bad", as opposed to: "You are a bad boy" (see the difference?), he is not bad, but his action was, there is a "WORD" of difference between these two statements!

And last but not least the language we use about our own selves, how we sometimes criticize, belittle or insult ourselves, using expressions such us:

"I am such and idiot"
"I look horrible"
"I am not good at this," etc....

In short, we should always try to use our words positively. It may be difficult to catch our words before they come out, especially if we are hurt or angry, but we ALWAYS have the choice, and a good way to take control of this moments is to breathe deeply a few times (3 to 5 times) before we say something mean or negative, it usually works for me, after I breathe I already feel calmer and I give myself that space to stop and reflect on what I am about to say.

There is a nice quote from a book that I love, called: "The Four Agreements " by Don Miguel Ruiz, that I would like to share as a closing statement for this weeks's theme:

Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

Have a wonderful week!

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