Words really do have power! Completely contrary to this ancient idiom: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me!"Communication is all about getting your message across both verbally and through body language.
If that message is positive, your words will naturally convey that meaning. However, if your message is negative, your words will effortlessly find their mark.
With this in mind, how important is it to edit what you’re going to say?
Most especially, when you’re not in a good frame of mind. Emotional intelligence is all about gaining control over yourself and your behaviour. The insight to recognise when you’ve reached boiling point and the skill to literally pull your hand out of the fire before you get burned.
If we verbally chastise a colleague, we at least have the opportunity to repair the damage in the moment with some form of apology. Your proximity to them allows for real time dialogue.
They are able to read a change in your body language and your tone, and conclude you’re sincere, even if it takes a few minutes for them to calm down first.
The potential to cause irreparable harm, however, is raised a good few notches when we communicate our negative opinion in a written format
. Once we’ve committed those thoughts to paper and hit send, our vitriol is captured forever in the ether.
Even if you do come to your senses and pen an apology, it’s far more difficult for the other party to assess your sincerity. It’s equally difficult for you to gauge just how gracious their supposed acceptance actually is.
In truth, it’s a lot easier to lose your cool on paper and go over the top. It’s so much less threatening to compose a furious email, WhatsApp message, text etc.
than it is to face the object of your wrath in the ‘real’ world. This phenomenon is borne out when considering the ease with which perfectly normal kids descend into cyber-bullying. The target of this type of communication has no weapons with which to fight back and all too often the consequences are tragic.
It is simply not true that words cause no harm – they are powerful and we need to learn to treat them as such. Once it’s been said, it’s in existence even if only in the other person’s mind. Think before you speak. Think before you write.
Is this likely to gain me co-operation or come full circle and bite me in the nether regions later??
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