Monthly Musing – May 2019 – Words

“This is how I have heard what you’ve just said, did you mean it to sound like that?”

One of the conversations that we have had more than once with both our girls as they have been (and still are) negotiating teenage social conversations is to think about how their words are heard by someone else. This might sound like an odd conversation to have with your teenage daughter, but it’s one that we’ve felt has been important over the years; a variation of “think before you speak”.

One of the hardest things about conversations is that often we have no idea of the impact of what we might say on the other person. Our words, however well-intentioned, are always heard by someone else through the understanding of their own experiences. A recent conversation that I had with someone pushed all kinds of emotional buttons and had me transported back to a particularly unpleasant high school class with a speed and clarity that took my breath away. Of course, the person I was speaking to might have had a bad day themselves, or someone or something might have pushed their own buttons, and they would certainly not have realised that I might be more sensitive than others to a particular way of speaking because of my own teenage encounters, but it was still an upsetting experience. My adult self knows that it’s OK, that I actually earn my living from that subject these days (ha! one in the eye for you, horrible high school teacher!) and that there will have been no offence intended (hopefully) but it still took a couple of days to recover my equilibrium and remember that I’m not thirteen any more.

With the international focus on mental health awareness this week, this experience has reminded me to be more mindful of what I’m saying to others. It’s so tempting when we’ve been hurt by someone to snap back and to try to make the other person hurt as much as you, particularly if we’re feeling emotionally vulnerable ourselves, but if they were unaware of any of the “behind the scenes” stuff going on in your head then that isn’t fair. Instead, I am trying to remember to be kind, and to step out of my own hurt feelings to question why someone might have spoken as they did – and why I might have reacted as I did. Obviously, if someone is deliberately trying to provoke me then that’s a different story (and it’s often foolish to provoke someone who usually has knitting needles in their hands!), but I feel that the majority of conversations we have are with someone else who is dealing with their own life complications and hasn’t thought (or doesn’t know) about ours.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I’m reminded of a line from the 2015 Disney remake of Cinderella: “Have courage and be kind”. Applying that to “think before you speak” isn’t always easy, but it won’t hurt me to try – or my girls to see me trying.


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12 Responses

  1. happy hooker says:

    How right you are. At nearly 65 I can still feel the hurt and embarrassment I felt at things said to me as a child. It's all too easy to say things on the spur of the moment, but not so easy to remove the hurt it might have caused. Thanks for the reminder to stop and think before speaking. xx

    • Winwick Mum says:

      And isn't it crazy that we hold onto it for so many years? It's definitely "baggage" – but it's not so easy to let go of! xx

  2. My Creative Life says:

    Very true, there's an inner child in all of us remembering our past and wanting justice or worse. It's too easy to recollect events as if they've just happened, reliving those feelings again. If we don't lay it down daily, let it go and even forgive, we'll carry it all through life, giving it the power to hurt us. Cx

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Yes, you are absolutely right, forgiveness is the key as you're not absolving the other person of their part in the experience but you are freeing yourself. Such a powerful thing to do – but not always easy! xx

  3. MidgePorterDesign says:

    It can be hard to remind myself that I am no longer that shy bullied child at school. I still lack social confidence and can leave encounters feeling unsure of myself. The good thing is that the older I get the more I just think life is too short to spend time worrying about what others think. We are all on differing paths. I offer friendship and a smile with the hope others will come along for the ride ����

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Oh, it can take years to shift the baggage that we saddle ourselves with thanks to encounters when we were young. You are absolutely right to think that life is too short – those who want to be with you are those who deserve your time and those who don't will always find other things to do – they probably won't be worrying about you so why waste your time worrying about them?! 🙂 xx

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I'm reading this after a morning of worship at my church and your post fits so well with what is constantly being taught. Be kind and think before you speak. Now if I can just remember this when I start dealing with people on Monday morning…tee hee

  5. luluknitts says:

    These are exactly the kind of things I think our kids should learn in their life skills (IAG) classes. It's so important for them to realise that once words are said, they can never be unsaid. xxxx

  6. Julie says:

    I remember having a conversation with my own children about writing a text message and thinking about the person reading it. When you have a conversation in person they can see your face and judge how you have said something, with social media and texting that isn't possible and easy to offend.

  7. Anita (Coningsby) says:

    Wise words, I hope I will remember this blog for a long time.

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