At the end of the day, all I ever seem to be stuck with is words. Not spoken words, but silent words. Words that follow me around when I’m awake and when I’m asleep. These words I speak on are my thoughts. Thoughts I wish I could verbalize, but, often out of fear of what they might mean, I end up saying nothing. My whole life, I’ve been a thinker. This was always my justification for not speaking up and sharing how I actually feel with others. The truth is, I honestly do prefer being within my thoughts (proudly introverted), because they’re much easier to deal with than real life. Thoughts are abstract. You can acknowledge them without finding the right words. In our thoughts, there are no wrong words or right words. There simply exist a plethora of words that float in and out of our consciousness, in varying complexities and subjects.
We cannot be held accountable for what we think, but we can be held accountable for which thoughts we speak on. This is because, in reality, it’s important we chose the right words. I’ve often said the wrong words to people. Sometimes, people were weirded out (this is the typical response, at which that point you can visualize whatever awkward situation disappearing meme comes to mind). Other times, people were hurt. The latter often leads to the question: am I really an inconsiderate bastard who doesn’t think twice before speaking? Well, not quite. I’ve also been hurt by the words of others, even by people who didn’t intend for them to hurt.
What I’ve come to learn is that both, the words we speak and the thoughts they spawn from, are mere extensions of the vast collection of unique experiences we call the self. In other words, we all experience words differently. One may counter this with admittedly due logic: if words are defined, thus discrete and non-abstract, then, surely, there is a valence of objectivity within each definition that is to be acknowledged with the selection of each word we use, assuming the sender and receiver know what any given word means. This is certainly true, but this way of thinking makes one larger assumption that is not always true, and it’s that we all share the same association with the words we use.
Take death for example. Let’s objectively define it as the end of life (as we understand it as humans), for this example. Even if everyone acknowledges this definition, it does not objectify everyone’s experience with death. Children usually have less experience with death than adults, so their perception of death is likely amorphous or even scary (not to say some adults are not afraid of death). On another note, perhaps you’re a funeral director who deals with death everyday. The mere concept of death would probably be less threatening, even if, again, we’re using the same definition that scares some adults. At this point, the definition becomes arbitrary; it’s how you perceive it, which is often influenced by your direct exposure to it.
I chose to use the word death because it’s a word I have a lot of experience with. In addition to the loss of friends and family, I also volunteered to work in a hospice facility in high school. Needless to say, not too many people were interested. I can talk about it comfortably because, to me, I don’t perceive it as a good or bad thing. It just is. Even if death was once a mere thought to me, it’s now a word I can speak on with multiple real-life examples.
I think the goal for people should be to focus on the experiences we associate with words, not the words we associate with experiences. Furthermore, we must do our best to be mindful of the experiences the people we talk to associate with the words we speak to them. To do this, we must first become self aware, not allowing negativity to interfere with our better judgement. This includes not assuming the words people to say us were are inherently meant to hurt us. We must beware of words that trigger our own fears, so we can respond appropriately when someone else uses them or we use them ourselves. Alternatively, while it does happen accidentally, we must make sure we are not intentionally speaking to hurt others.
At the end of the day, spreading negativity helps no one. People will piss you off, but, instead of losing your temper or throwing every curse word you know at someone, find the strength to first acknowledge what word in particular pissed you off the most. Then, explain why that word triggered you. Again, it could simply be that the person using the word had a difference experience with it than you. If you don’t know why a particular word offended you, it may be something you’ve been holding in. Either way, focus on communicating what you are feeling rather than focusing merely on your word selection. Doing this has helped me improve not only my communication skills but my relationships, professional or otherwise, as well. I encourage you all to give it a try for yourselves!
I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this. Let me know if my own selection of words has helped you, or if there’s anything else you’d like to add or even disagree with. I’d like to do more posts like these in the future, so please give this post a thumbs up and subscribe if you are interested in hearing more. As always, spread love and be loved.