Words once said, retrieving them is like trying to get eggs out of a baked cake.
Forget the weapons alone, we also kill with our mouths. Just a word is enough to make someone commit suicide.
“I didn’t mean any harm” ohh we’ve heard that before!
What’s the problems with words?
The real issue is someone might interpret you differently, so what really demands more caution is that we chose our what we say carefully.
If your words appeared on your skin, would you still be beautiful?
If your words were captured by noses, would they be a scent or smell?
On the other hand, good words have the ability to carry us far off to amazing places, secret places, beautiful places. They can create the reality around you. They can create things into existence. Much as they can hurt, they can also be healing.
Words are healing – consider Psychotherapy or Counselling which has led to healing for so many people.
Words create feelings
They can make you laugh, happy, scared, cry, sad. Positive ones can create positive feelings and vice versa. You can arrange words on a paper to tell a story and get transferred to that place. There is no limit to what you can do with them. Make yours kind.
A small twitch in your words can create a HUGE shift
Some words can signal low mood or depression or even anxiety as research has suggested. For example those that denote totality (I “always” get things wrong, I am “nothing”, “Everyone” thinks am stupid etc..
Words and the Brain
What we chose to say can cause particular areas of the brain to activate pain according to research. Words have associations within us so when certain words are said, events (positive or negative) are activated causing positive or negative feelings and emotions.
Words don’t only relay meanings they also relate attitudes. So, when the word spoken doesn’t match the attitude of the listener, then there’s potential for harm.
The problem with what we say comes from the distinction between what the speaker means and that of the one they are speaking to (what the listener understands it to mean). For example, if someone say something as a joke but if the other one reads it as serious, they may take offence.
Some words are so powerful that their descriptive meaning, attitude, and inherent negativity are tied up together. These are usually the ones used to insult others in cases of racism, sexism or homophobia and xenophobia, and other forms of intolerances.
Even if you don’t intend the harm caused by what you you say, your audience might not understand that. The speaker’s meaning and the audience’s meanings don’t always match up. Therefore, only by thinking carefully about what we say and what we mean can we understand how we might be perceived by others.
Memories of painful words stay far longer than those involving physical pain. That is why you may find it difficult to forget some things that were said to you.
The tongue may be boneless, but my goodness, it is the strongest!
It’s things that were said to me that pushed me to become a better me and I have also suffered from words that weighed me down for days like burdens.
Words are delicate yet stronger than a hammer, they can break any heart.
A word said cannot be unsaid.
How then can we deal with hurtful words?
If you have hurt someone and you wish to make amends, the one thing you need to do is:
- To STOP centering yourself.
- You must respect the victim’s boundaries, and yes this means even not contacting them to apologize.
- Before rushing to apologise, work on fixing yourself so you don’t hurt others, and don’t try and get credit for it.
- When apologising, be specific and detailed
- Don’t try to turn your apology into a debate – acknowledge that their truth may be different from yours.
- When someone chooses to share with you, instead of truly listening to someone’s experience, don’t derail or challenge the conversation by sharing your own words (experiences). This is also known as harmful refocusing and is always unsolicited and is an attempt to protect your privilege and make yourself feel comfortable. These tips worked for me, and I hope you find them helpful too.
Remember, your words are a created weapon, one that if used properly can heal but can harm if used inappropriately.