December 6, 2010

Tip of the day—Are your words building someone up or tearing them down?

In Sunday school yesterday, we talked a little about this subject.  Hubby and I had been discussing it the previous night as well, so I thought in the spirit of making the Christmas season merrier, it would be a good topic for today.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Well, maybe words won’t hurt your bones, but this rhyme is anything but true.   I’m sure each of us can recall and event when someone said something unkind or hurtful to us.  Even though that experience might have occurred years ago, those words stay with us.  Words can injure, tear down, and deflate.

Negativity can spread like wildfire.  Reflect on the last time you were around someone who was negative.  “Debbie Downers” can take the air out of a room.  All it takes is one person in a group to affect the overall mood, and pretty soon most of the people present are grumbling, complaining or despairing about something.  I find that if I’m in the least bit tired, stressed, or distracted, I am especially affected by a negative person.  Or even worse, I’m the negative one.

More detrimental than negativity is subterfuge--those people in organizations who gossip, talk bad about leadership, subgroup against others, and use passive aggressive means to insert their power into the group.  This kind of activity can kill and organization, detouring it away from its mission and goals. 

Being negative, gossiping, telling racial jokes, bullying, doesn’t just affect others.  It affects the person speaking unkindly as well.  It hardens a person’s heart and closes him/her off from others. 

The good news is that just as words can tear down they can also uplift.  One positive person can change the group.  One kind word can brighten someone’s day.  One person reaching out to someone else can warm a heart.  One person standing up against prejudice can make change.  I like the quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world” because it is so true.  When we interact in a different way, we affect those around us. 

When reading Ephesians 4 and 5, I’m reminded of how I should speak to others, and I’m humbled.  Talking about others, laughing at someone, gossiping, being negative about leaders or something that someone is trying to do, being harsh in my tone with my husband or daughter, being snide in a comment to a sales clerk—I’m guilty as charged.   I joke that I have to work really hard to be nice.  I’m just not one of those St. Teresa kind of people.  I end each day grateful for God’s forgiveness, grace, love, and His willingness to let me to continue to try again to do better.  Today our Sunday school teacher said something that was almost like she was talking only to me.  We all have to work on this stuff.  We all have to try better.  Paul was writing to a church in the book of Ephesians, an ancient church, and yet those same communication issues and relationship struggles are lessons for present day. 

Below are some ways that I’m working on speaking with grace and kindness, building up instead of tearing down:

  • I try to make a decision to be patient, kind, and positive in the mornings.  When I decide “this is how the day is going to go”, I’m much more likely to make it happen.
  • It is so hard for me to be silent.  The reason I’m not too keen on the nickname Gabby, is because it is a little too close to the mark for me. I’m working on being silent when faced with a situation in which I am hard pressed to be kind or when I’m tempted to speak ill of someone.
  • Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  Empathy is the great connector.  If I can empathize with someone’s situation, I can better understand motivation and actions.  I’m much less likely to be negative about it.
  • Debbie Downers—try to avoid them.  I regularly encounter someone in my life who is like this, and it is a struggle.  If I know that I’m feeling vulnerable or susceptible, I need to keep my interactions with a negative person limited.  Alternately, I can make a decision before those interactions to be positive.  Steer the conversation towards a different topic or more pleasant discussion.
  • Ask for forgiveness.  When I’ve snapped at someone, I try to apologize as soon as it happens. 
  • Take care of yourself.  I’m usually more fussy or negative when I’m feeling overwhelmed, stressed, tired, or I’m not taking care of my body through proper diet and exercise.  A friend sent me this article from the NY Times after I posted about saying no and not over-committing.  Focus on engaging in activities that are energizing rather than being bogged down with tasks that aren’t.  Volunteer work is great, but if it is taking away from your sense of sanity or keeping you from spending time with your family, you might need to prioritize.
  • Stop with the perfection.  You aren’t perfect—you aren’t going to be no matter how hard you try.  There, I just released you from a lot of time and worry by telling you a very simple truth that we can all tend to forget from time to time.  I’m not saying to not have pride in a job well done or not to take care of what you own, but stressing over every little thing will tear you away from what is really important in life.  I’d much rather my child tell her children about times we cooked together or I read books to her than to tell them that I kept a clean house. 
  • About 80% of what we communicate is in the form of nonverbal cues.  Ask—is my tone harsh?  Am I smiling or polite?  How would I want to be treated in this situation? 

Be the change you want to see in the world. 

  • When you see someone doing good work, go out of your way to bring it to his or her attention, to the attention of management, and or the attention of district/national management
  • Tell your child something that she has done today that you really appreciated.  Be specific.  No need to offer some kind of toy or food as reward—if anything that belittles the gesture.  Kids know when you are sincere.
  • Tell your spouse something that he/she has done today that you appreciate.  Write a love letter, detailing the many things you appreciate about him or her. Maybe you can use the 12 days of Christmas as an opportunity to show your appreciation, leaving a note for each day thanking him or her for something.
  • Take on servant leadership.  Maybe your talents aren’t being recognized.  Maybe you don’t get told thank you enough.  Instead of grumbling, ask yourself why are you doing what you do?  Be motivated internally.  Have pride in your work.  Strive to do a good job.  There is virtue in giving of yourself for the good of others.  Parenthood is a good example of this.
  • Dave Ramsey talked about gossip a while back.  They have a zero tolerance policy against it in their organization.  I love that idea. Give yourself your own zero tolerance policy for gossiping.  If you have a problem, talk about it with your boss or the person directly and leave everyone else out of it.  I understand how it is sometimes necessary to talk about a problem to help you know how to take action, but we all know the difference in that and gossip. 
  • Speak out against injustice.  Work to change unjust policies.  Teach your children tolerance towards others.  Allow them to experience different cultures and races so that they might benefit from a fuller and richer life.
  • Think about a co-worker of yours.  Go to your boss and tell him or her about ways in which that person is doing a good job.  Write a thank you note to that co-worker and leave it on his or her desk signed anonymously.  Maybe leave a little treat like one of the freebies from Bath & Body Works or a nice box of tea or coffee.

What other ideas do you have?  What helps you to speak or act in kindness?

1 comment:

  1. A good reminder, Gabrielle. The NYTimes article is well worth a read too.