What we say can mean a whole lot to people–either positively or negatively, depending on what words we use. This is because each word has a meaning behind it.–something that can either make or break a life. This is why we should always, always, strive to use our words to encourage someone, rather than to tear someone down. When we tear someone down with our words, we risk not only creating distrust in a relationship, but tearing it down altogether. Here are some common ways people use their words to hurt others…and also some ways that people can use their words to instead encourage one another. For more information on the power of words, see also this post:
Ways people tear down others using words:
- Using words to blame others for their own mistakes or problems- This often happens in families or among close friends. Sometimes when a person doesn’t feel heard and is constantly being invalidated by another, he or she will start to blame the invalidating person for anything or everything going on in their lives. They would say to them, “If you hadn’t done x, then I would have not been passed over for that job I really wanted.” or something to that effect. They will use the other person as a scapegoat and refuse to accept responsibility for their own mistakes and failures.
- Invalidating—This often happens when a person is too caught up in their own life and problems to listen to the other (often, hurting) person. It also happens when a person doesn’t care about the hurting person’s problems. For instance, if I told you that I had a bad day, and you said something like “Suck it up, buttercup.” or “Ok, that’s nice,” in a dismissive, sarcastic way, that would be invalidating my feelings and that I had a bad day. Instead, using this example, you should listen to what I have to say or at the very least express sympathy for my pain and suffering.
- Being sarcastic.—This often happens when a person is upset with someone, but doesn’t just want to yell at them. For instance, if a child doesn’t want to listen to his or her parents’ directions to clean his or her room, he or she may say, ” It doesn’t have to be perfectly clean you know!” knowing it isn’t even clean at all!
- Using curse words.–This means a person uses foul language to tear down and insult someone. For instance, if a person feels another has hurt or insult them by the other person’s words and/or actions, he or she may call them a[n] [insert swear word here] to their face or behind their back.
- Insulting someone—This can happen in many ways. One of the ways a person uses words in this mean and derogatory way is to mock them. For instance, President Trump was accused by some people of mocking the disabled and women by making fun of their mannerisms using his words. Another way some people unfortunately insult people is to degrade them. For instance, a parent may verbally abuse their children by saying that “They never do anything right.” or saying, “You’re worthless. I wish you were never born to me!”
Ways we can encourage people with our words:
- We can validate them.–When we see or hear someone in pain, we can first of all, listen and hear what they have to say. Then, we can sympathize with them by saying, “I’m sorry you are going through this. What can I do to help you through this?” We can ensure them (if that’s the case) that what they are going through is not their fault. If it is their fault, we can validate them by saying that we will help them to make amends and forgive them for their errors.
- We can refuse to slander or gossip about others.– One of the most damaging things one can do to another person is to slander or gossip about them, so that their reputation is ruined or, at the very least, marred. If you refuse to say unkind things about others, it will be much easier to encourage and uplift them. Even if those things are true, I have learned (often, unfortunately, the hard way) we can instead talk to the person directly about any issues we have with them. If you are scared or for some reason can’t talk to them directly, at least talk to someone who can actually do something to rectify the issue or issues you’re having with said person. Once someone said that if you are not part of the problem or solution to an issue between people, then you have no right to blab about another person in an unkind way. If you do, then it is gossip.
- We can use our words to uplift someone in need of our love and encouragement.–What I started to do at work is to make little notes of encouragement to people who I feel need it. When we use our words, either orally or in print, to compliment and/or encourage someone, it can give them the joy they so desperately need in their lives. For instance, one of my managers was having a stressful day and it was his birthday. So, I had some of my co-workers and managers write him good wishes for his day, and when I gave it to him and told him what a great manager he was (and he is), he teared up a little, obviously touched by the encouragement that those co-workers, managers, and I gave him. I have seen when I take the time to encourage someone, instead of gossiping or slandering someone, people usually take notice, and their faces light up.
- We can speak the truth in love.–When you must correct someone or admonish him or her for something they are doing that is hurting themselves or others, it is often an unpleasant experience. However, we don’t have to avoid talking to them about the issue or sweep it under a rug, so to speak, in order to build someone up. We don’t have to be nasty or insulting to them either. We can speak the truth in love instead. For instance, if a child’s parents catches their child lying , they doesn’t have to call the child a “liar” or let the child lie to them. They can instead focus on the bad behavior, instead of the child’s worth as a person. For instance, they can say, “Tommy, when you lied about having already taken the trash out, it made me feel angry and hurt. I know you can do better than lying to us. Can you trust us to tell the truth next time, so we can trust you?” Use the phrase, when you did x, it made me feel X (name the emotion—angry, hurt, frustrated, sad, disappointed, etc…). Also, affirm the person after you let the person know you’re upset at him/her. This doesn’t mean you condone the behavior, just the person. Also, let the person know how you would like them to change their behavior. For instance, Tommy’s parents asked him to be more honest with them next time so he could regain their trust.
- We can demonstrate humility by apologizing and by honestly committing to make real amends when we wrong someone or otherwise make a mistake.—For instance, if you upset a boss at work by doing something incorrectly or inadequately, instead of making excuses or blaming others for the wrong that occurred, you can apologize. For instance, when a manager points out a mistake that I did in straightening, instead of making excuses for why I did it wrongly or inadequately, I could say, “I’m sorry for X mistake I made in straightening. How can I commit to doing this work better?” This response would not only be genuinely humble, but also shows you are open to learning from your mistakes.
These are just some of the ways people (unfortunately) tear down others, and some of the ways that people can build up people. I am not perfect in building up people in any of these ways. There are still many things about encouraging others and not tearing them down that I need to learn, and we all do. However, the more we proactively encourage others, and the less we tear them down with our words, the better this world will be for them.