Our words have the power to build others up or tear them down. Sometimes we unintentionally cut people in half with what we say and how we say it. Think about this.
After working with children for ten years, one thing in particular that makes me crazy is when adults call young kids “shy” to their face. We’ve all heard it or said it before. While in line at Starbucks yesterday I struck up a conversation with the nice woman in front of me. When I said hello to her 3-year-old son he covered his face and hid behind her leg. She reacted to him in a disappointed tone saying, “Charlie! Why are you being so shy!?!” If he could have spoken up for himself, the little guy might have said, “Because I’m leery of this stranger wearing snakeskin rain boots whose ponytail is all frizzed out like a wild woman (it’s true, I was having a bad hair day). Duh, Mom!” I know many people will disagree with me and think nothing of it, but I felt bad for Charlie. His mom was criticizing his perfectly normal behavior in front of a large audience. I smiled at him and said, “It’s ok, Charlie, sometimes I don’t feel like talking to people either, especially when I don’t know them.”
We should THINK before we speak. This acronym is a good way to measure our words:
Are my words Truthful?
Are my words Helpful?
Are my words Inspiring?
Are my words Necessary?
Are my words Kind?
Here are some ideas for ways we can revise phrases that have a negative connotation:
Replace “Wow, you look tired!” with “What can I do to help you today?”
Instead of “You haven’t completed the project!?” ask “What obstacles are you facing?”
Rather than “I haven’t heard from you in forever!” say “I miss you, let’s make plans!”
What are some other words you often hear that tear down or have an underlying tone of criticism? How can they be rephrased in order to build people up?