It is easy to forget the power of words. We hear. We feel. We hurt. We react.
And in between the hearing and our reaction, there are but milliseconds to make a choice. To strike out from our hurting feelings, or make room for our feelings to be heard in a way that creates possibility for deep listening between us and another.
How often have you responded to hurtful words with something like, “You make me so angry.”
In the ‘you make me’, we give away our power. We are holding someone else accountable for our feelings and responses.
What if, instead of giving the other person the power of ‘making’ your feelings, you took a breath and replied, “When I heard you say [that] I felt diminished, invisible, unheard…” Or, “I want to talk about [that] but I can’t hear you when you (yell) (speak with such a harsh, criticising tone) (call me names)… Is there a way you can say what you want to say so that I can hear you? ”
If in that moment it is not possible to speak respectfully, take a break. Walk away and agree to come back at a later time when you are both calmer.
It is never okay for someone to call you names, yell or berate you.
It’s not okay for you to do it to them either.
Creating space for each person to be accountable for their words, and how they speak them, opens up the possibility of communicating at deeper, more respectful and constructive levels.
Our words have the power to pierce like a sunbeam in the dark, illuminating the heart of what is keeping us apart with their power to reveal our truth. When we use our words to stab like a knife, we are cutting away the heart of what brings us together. In the pain of each cut, we grow further and further away from the heart of what is true.
And the first step is to take care with our words. Once spoken, they cannot be unspoken.