Using Your Words

Words can INSPIRE and words can DESTROY. Choose YOURS well.

Robin Sharma

Words can be so triggering. We know it’s true, we see it clearly after we calm down,  yet we still fall into the trap when it happens. Interestingly, it’s not just the words being used that get to us. The unique combination of tone, timing and speaker is usually the ultimate trigger. 

How many times has a friend said something to you that you know is true but you’re not ready to talk about or address yet? You might tense up for a moment, but fairly quickly recover and say something like “thanks for your concern, I know you care about me, I am working on that”.

But then, your partner, parent or just the wrong person uses the same exact words and you go batshit crazy?

Often it’s the people closest to us who get the worst reactions. With the people who matter, we typically apologize, talk about what happened and either forgive them or say we are sorry. Regardless of how many times we catch ourselves, the crazy matrix of words, tone, timing and speaker snares us and either hurts our feeling or triggers us to react in ways we later wish we hadn’t. 

Over time, unresolved, damaging words can be the reason people end friendships, change jobs, get divorced or carry a lifelong heavy load of regret, resentment, animosity and even hatred. So what can we do? How can we learn to regulate our reactions to triggering words, and what does this have to with dating? With the people who matter to us, we stick around and work on it. In dating and new relationships, we make snap judgments and walk away. 

When going on a date or starting a new relationship,  it is important to remember the power of words and how words can inadvertently screw up the best of intentions. Have you ever been texting someone who you haven’t even met and their mere string of words are enough to convince you that they are wrong for you? Or have you been on a date when the person in front of you is boring you with talk about their ex, car, job, or kids?

What do you do? 

Rather than making snap judgments and convincing yourself that you know exactly who they are, try redirecting them and attempt to learn something about them. Be curious, ask questions that will help you see the human being sitting across from you. Don’t get me wrong, if their words are offensive or go against your values or beliefs, you are smart to move on. Be polite and start planning your escape. But if they seem normal and are just bugging you a bit, relax. Remember, they might be nervous or tired of sharing their heart and dreams on first dates too. 

Many times, we judge people too quickly and miss out on some great people. If you are like most and quickly judge a book by its cover, you might be missing out on the best story of your life. 

The key to being in a relationship with a person who will treat you with fairness and kindness going forward is to treat them with empathy today. Be patient and remember that we are all on our separate journey. Before you decide you “know”, seek to understand.

Sometimes, when I am borderline offended by someone’s comments I reply with, “I am curious, what makes you say that?”. If your tone is neutral or truly curious, the answer may surprise you. In nearly 100% of the instances when I use this question for clarification, I am pleasantly surprised and learn that they did not mean what I thought I heard. Having these kinds of conversations is a great way to get people away from talking about other people and things and moving them towards sharing their ideas and feelings. 

I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant

― Alan Greenspan

Want to learn how to improve your communication skills? Contact Galia at [email protected] 

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