There’s an expression that rolls off the tongue, oh so easily: `Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. What you say to another human being and what they say to you has the most profound effect on you both. We are truly able to move mountains with words. And the power of words can destroy people’s lives. It really does matter what we say to each other – and how we say it.
In all our lives we’ve all had moments, when we can honestly say, it’s been good to talk.
A conversation when we felt emotionally connected to another human being.
A conversation which gave us both a deeper understanding of each other.
A conversation when we felt totally in tune, totally in harmony, totally safe.
We knew we were both being heard.
Whether we were the speaker or the listener, we engaged in an exchange of thoughts and emotions. If we were doing the talking, we said thought by thought what was in our mind. Our friend echoed our every word and tone under their breath. Silently listening by saying it with us. After each thought, we breathed together, and both experienced the emotion of what we had just said. By watching our friend’s face and body we checked them out, to see if they understood. Not just understood but felt the feeling in our words. Our friend nodded as if to say, they had heard us. So did we, as if to say ‘I heard it too’. We both experienced what we said at the same moment. Both joined through the breath to the thought and to the emotion. Magically there in our mind was what we needed to say next, ready to be spoken.
When we completed the cycle of thoughts, we both reviewed them as a whole. And in that moment, as we both breathed, we decided between us who was to carry on talking. We stayed in step with each other, as if only one person was doing the talking. Sitting or standing the same way. Moving and breathing together. Even if we were doing all the talking, our friend was always part of the process. Neither of us owned the conversation.
It belonged to us both.
With our true friends we feel as though we could tell them anything and remain safe in their friendship. It makes us feel good, it makes us feel well. It makes us feel safe!
Why are we so terrified to talk openly and honestly without fear?
For the first few years of our lives the adults around us thrilled as we developed the ability to talk. They clapped their hands in glee, as we started to make more and more sense of the language we were learning. And then all too soon
it starts to go horribly wrong. Instead of smiles of joy we get:
‘‘Button your lip’ ‘Shut your mouth’ ‘
‘Don’t you dare speak to me like that’.
‘One more word out of you and you’ll go to your room’.
Then once we’ve been silenced, we’re told:
‘Well spit it out then, come on’. ‘Cat got your tongue’
‘Stop bloody mumbling child… ‘
Or maybe the cruel sarcasm and public humiliation of:
‘‘The floor is yours Jenkins, what pearls of wisdom do have for us today… em?’
It’s not very nice, even now, to be talked to like that. What did it feel like, say, when you were four or five or six or seven? Maybe what was said or done to you was worse, even more cruel, even more unkind and destructive to your confidence, to your belief that you have a right to be heard. How did you deal with the feelings of confusion and hurt? How did you decide how to cope in the future? To cope with the belief that it wasn’t safe to express what you really feel – any more?
Every day I see people who’ve been de-voiced by someone during their childhood.
Their ability to talk openly and honestly without fear has been crushed with words.
Not just words, but the way they were used as weapons to wound.
You could say: ‘’Well, it happens to us all. We all get over it.’‘… Do we?
‘’The middle aged woman who speaks with a little girls voice. The man who tries desperately to get across what he’s trying to say, but it just won’t come out.
The woman who speaks in bullets, trying to be assertive, but knows that she’s failing abysmally. The young man, desperately trying to be cool, but his terrified eyes always give him away. The woman who mumbles and just can’t look you straight in the eye,
because she’s too terrified you’ll probe her pain.
All of us are trying to cover up past pain. Trying to keep it hidden from prying eyes. But it leaks out every time we open our mouths. The truth is, we don’t talk to each other, not really – not most of the time. We exchange at best pointless pleasant platitudes.
Talking has become for the most part a necessary function to achieve our needs in order to survive. An empty experience that diminishes us all. And we talk and listen
Yet from behind that mask, most of us, most of the time, are searching and longing to hear something that reassures us that we belong, that we are included, that we are part of the whole, part of the community we live in and that our voice is truly being heard. Talking is always emotional – always personal.
But what if you don’t? What if you want to be released from the confines created in your childhood?
Break down your barrier of fear – before it’s too late! Listen past another person’s fear to who they really are. Believe it’s the people you meet and talk to, I mean really talk to, that matter most, as you try to define who you are – as you search to find your place and purpose in this world.
Know that you have the potential to form that future, by what you say and how you say it. Begin to talk and listen openly and honestly without fear.