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“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”   Rudyard Kipling

A short while ago I wrote a series of blogs about Voice Dialogue, by Hal and Sidra Stone.  They talk mainly about different sub personalities and how they can interact within ourselves and with others given the right circumstances. In a memorable film called “The three Faces of Eve“, the film showed how certain ways of talking could bring out this persons differing personalities.  It made me consider the power words have in our lives and what can be triggered by the way they are used.

Everyone likes compliments, encouragement and appreciation for their efforts. It gives you a buzz and even if the task has been difficult you feel it was worthwhile. You are willing to overlook ill feelings which may have come up because of pressure to get the job done, or having to work late. Even harsh words said are often forgiven in the haze of good will that the praise has created. In Voice Dialogue terms, we moved from Angry/Resentful worker to Happy/Fulfilled employee. The “boss” has moved from the Tyrant to the Good Guy.

How has this happened? It has all been accomplished by how the words which were spoken were said, their tone and how they were received. You see, even the most innocent of words if received incorrectly can engender feelings of hurt and resentment.

“You KNOW I don’t want those papers there, put them OVER HERE!  Such a simple sentence can be heard in many ways. If heard as a criticism the worker will be upset and possibly angry. If heard as a stressed response from their boss they may feel sympathy for them. If the Harried worker was feeling tired, worrying about home, they may not have seen the Stressed boss. They may not know the pressure being applied to them to get the job finished.

Misunderstandings occur every day, mostly with those we interact with often, with family and those we care about. These are the times when words can wound and create fear, loathing and hate.  Others can, of course, bring feelings of love, warmth, healing and adoration.

Words are a miracle in and of themselves. They are only letters strung together and have been given meanings by others. As we are taught to use them they are given emotions to attach to them. Depending on our experiences they can be good or bad.

image from http://www.dw.de

As my children were growing up there was a new technique encouraged for parents, called the “Speaker Listener Technique”.  Each time the “speaker” said something the “listener” had to repeat it back using their own words. That is, not repeating what had been said but what had been understood. It was effective, but it slowed communication down dreadfully.

We each have our own method of communicating with others, with the world at large and it will not appeal to everyone. Yet this simple statement is a description of a battleground of sorts.

There are people who manage to speak in carefully controlled tones at all times, seemingly never getting upset or annoyed over anything. They often dislike hearing anyone raise their voice. The almost polar opposite is the person who, if agitated by events, will raise their voice, perhaps even resort to a curse or two if they are really upset. It is a stress relief mechanism. It may not be appreciated by everyone but it may be the way they have found to release that build up of emotional pressure. However, if the calmly spoken person really takes offense at the loud tone, it can have ramifications.

Who is right and who is wrong? Is there a right or wrong or is it simply the way people have learned to communicate?  If the person who, under pressure resorts to loud words is told that it affects the calmly spoken person will they feel constrained to change? Will it alter their real nature by having to submerge their pressure relief system? Will they feel lessened by the other person because of the criticism?

image from litreactor.com

There are  hundreds, if not thousands of variants in between these two communication styles. Hundreds if not thousands of sub personalities pulling the strings to bring these interactions about.  When we lash out in anger or hurt we always have to face the consequences. If we are willing to do that we can overcome the fallout from it. It is only when we cannot pursue a resolution that the ‘injury’ festers and becomes something more.

I firmly believe that we, and only we give words power, to either hurt or heal. Our current world is conducted at breakneck speed, often with little time to consider all possibilities of a statement. Everyone needs to accept that word usage has changed our language and misunderstandings happen – frequently.

I know of one person who spent several decades afraid to speak their own mind, to show their emotions in word or deed and when they were finally free of the constraining force, found there was an explosion of stress released. Sometimes the force of the communication came at the wrong time and was misinterpreted. This person then began to retreat back inside their shell for fear of being judged harshly. They were afraid they would be deemed ‘unworthy’ or less in some way. Their hurt or anger is now turned inwards which is unhealthy and unhelpful for that person.

We must all look at how we communicate, how our words are intended and received and if they are received in a way unintended then it is our responsibility to correct it – sooner rather than later. We must all shoulder the responsibility to teach by example that words are powerful and expression is allowed – yet we must also ask ourselves if we are being judgmental because of our beliefs and our criticism unwarranted. Sub personalities or simple communication styles. We all need to learn more. Perhaps if we learn to communicate in a better way, words will not be weapons wounding at times.

Learning is a lifetime occupation. We can only do that by communicating with others.

“There exists, for everyone, a sentence – a series of words – that has the power to destroy you. Another sentence exists, another series of words, that could heal you. If you’re lucky you will get the second, but you can be certain of getting the first.”
Philip K. Dick, VALIS

May all our words be great ones, and all our intentions be from the heart.

Blessings,   Susan

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