No, I’m not talking Martin Luther King type of speech (although that was pretty damn powerful), I’m just talking about regular old day-to-day speech.
Pretty obviously, our actions are more powerful than words.
Similarly, our words are more powerful than our thoughts.
The problem is, for those of us who are of a *cough* slightly more loquacious nature, oftentimes our words are more or less exactly our thoughts.
Now, I’m not quite in the “blurt before thinking” category, but I have, historically, talked a lot.
Here’s where this is a problem.
A lot of crap just doesn’t need to be talked about.
Two examples from my experience:
1. I’m in a relationship with someone, and something is bothering me.
Why would I talk about it? To look for insight or emotional support; to try to resolve it, together; To try and subtly bully them into changing (dopey, I know); to get sympathy.
2. To prove how difficult or painful my life is. Ie, how much I’m suffering.
Why the hell would I do this? In short: looking for approval/love. I discovered I had a very deep pattern of using personal suffering to (try to) gain love & support.
The thing is, in both these cases – I’m upset. As always, the issue is never the cause, it’s my reaction.
In other words: rather than talking about it (and spreading our misery), it’s a lot more productive to get down to the root cause (almost never the person who’s standing in front of us) and get rid of that, not the seeming immediate stimulus.
At Burning Man, there’s a saying: “You don’t always get what you want, but you always get what you need.”
I’m starting to think this is exactly how life is all the time, not just out on the playa.
Case in point.
A friend recently called me out on exactly this situation. I was upset, and she pulled me up one day and said “Look, you can’t talk to me about this stuff.”
At the time my immediate reaction was pretty negative, “What the hell? A friendship without emotional support?!?”
The thing is, she was bang on the money.
The message could perhaps have been phrased differently – but I’ve eventually heard and understood what she meant.
All I was doing by talking about my internal emotional upheaval was making two people miserable, instead of just one.
This is particularly silly given that for me, “misery” is usually extremely short lived – I pull out my tools, I dump the issue and ten minutes later I’m feeling great again (in the vast majority of cases).
There’s a slightly more subtle issue too.
If someone on TV says something offensive about you (“People who voted for him are idiots”), well, it’s pretty easy to discount.
If, however, someone close to you – a partner or family member – says the exact same thing, it can really hurt.
What’s the difference? The level of energetic openness and connection between you. By opening ourselves to someone, we choose to make ourselves vulnerable.
The tradeoff (and why we do this) is, the more we open our hearts the deeper and richer the tapestry we can create together. The more beautiful the relationship has the chance of becoming.
Either way, it’s a choice, and they’re vulnerable.
So, saying nonloving things to someone who’s opened themselves to us causes far more pain than saying it to (say) a random stranger on the street.
Why on earth would we consciously want to cause pain in someone we love?
We should save our speech for adding value to the lives of those around us. Save it for being loving, supportive, encouraging.
If it’s our crap, we should deal with it, not smear it around.
As is so often the case, I more or less figured this out years ago.
Some lessons, it would seem, need to be learned a couple of times from a couple of different angles before they really sink in.