In the US, or perhaps in American Culture, we were conditioned to be expressive no matter how extreme the message or thought may be. Many of us have always known the phrase “freedom of expression” and have used that as our justification to say what we want, when we want to. But nowadays, it’s not a matter of saying what you can or what you want, but it is a question of how you say it, of how we as human beings, communicate–whether the content is thoughtful or the delivery is gentle is something that we must be conscious of.
Because so much of our everyday speech is predicated on our emotions, it’s so easy to open one’s mouth and for words to flow seamlessly when we’re happy or ecstatic, and the same goes when we are angry or frustrated. And when an emotionally-charged situation arises, and we are in the pits of anger, it becomes difficult to police our choice of words and temper the manner of our delivery. What comes after is what we all know as arguments, escalating into forms of emotional torment and an occasional rift in a relationship. Let’s face it: in the heat of the moment, we say things that we wish we never said, thus, the regrets we have as we get older.
Being the speaker is one thing, and being on the receiving end is another. We all know the feeling of getting hurt, so why perpetuate the very feelings that we don’t want? Why pass it on to someone when we know full well how badly it feels?
Now, now, I know some people who’d say, “well, if I do not express myself that way I want it to be, then I am not being true to myself and my feelings!” or “why do I have to practice self-restraint when I am only on the defense?” Okay, I get it. Sure, you’ve expressed yourself, but in all honesty, did you feel good after? Did it really make things better in the long run, the way you acted or reacted?
In my experience, oftentimes when I succumbed to that urge, I’ve found myself regretting the things that I’ve said, and the repercussions, thereafter, are always hard to deal with, not to mention the feelings that were hurt, the relationships that were cracked, and the identities (and dignities) that were trampled on. Bottom-line: I felt like a jerk after.
So, the next time you, dear reader, speak, whether you are the sender or receiver–in-person, via text, email, blogging, or any forms of social media–be wary of what and how you deliver your message. Better yet, breathe deeply and move away from the source of your anger and frustration. Don’t just think twice, think three or four times more. Take it easy. Give your words some thought. Once you are sure you’ve steered away from your anger, then give it a try. Trust that it is always so much better that you did.
With that, I leave you with a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Art of Communicating as an afterthought: When we say something that nourishes us and uplifts the people around us, we are feeding love and compassion. When we speak and act in a way that causes tension and anger, we are nourishing violence and suffering.