Our words are very powerful. It is so powerful that it is called “performative” in the field of communication. Performative, because our words can lead to action. Thus, when we say,“sweep the floor”, “buy pandesal” or “turn off the light”, real work will be done for us. Even trained animals do what their masters say.
Words are so powerful that it can heal, encourage, build-up or mend a broken heart. But it can also humiliate, discourage, hurt, and destroy a relationship, or one’s good reputation. When we feel sad, encouraging words from a friend can easily make us happy. But when we receive malicious and unkind words, they are like a dagger to our breast, we feel its pain deep in our hearts. Generally, we want our words to be wholesome and pleasing to the hearer. Sara Leone in her book “Her Husband’s Crown” listed three questions we can ask ourselves to make sure that our words are pleasant to the hearers.
1) Is it true? We need to ask ourselves: Is what I am telling true, or hearsay? If we are not sure, we better be silent or it might lead to gossip. We should also be careful when dealing with children. We often hear “Sige, may aswang, pulis o magtataho dyan, kukunin ka!”. Sometimes mothers lie to their children. “hindi ako aalis, laro ka lang dyan ha” but then she immediately leaves; “Inumin mo ang gamot, Ayy… ang sarap”. But of course the child will learn later on that it was a lie. It is always better to tell the truth and explain things to children in a manner they will understand. This will develop trust, honesty and security.
2) Is it kind? Our tone of voice, manner of speaking and choice of words can make a lot of difference in the message we want to convey. We might be saying the truth, but how we say it matters a lot. Gentle words are like a soothing balm for a troubled soul. Even in correcting people, we should still be kind. “Lagi namang palpak ang trabaho mo, di ka na natuto!” is harsh and humiliating . But: “Iho hindi pa rin tama, pag-aralan mong mabuti para hindi ka magkamali” will likely bring about a correct behavior. Kind words are inspiring, but harsh and inconsiderate words are discouraging.
Speaking the truth in kindness also requires proper timing. It is not appropriate to send a disturbing text to somebody when it’s late at night or very early in the morning. We must also assess the condition and the mood of the person.
3) Is it necessary? Oftentimes we say words that do not add value to the conversation but cause pain instead. For example, “O, Inay nakalabas ka na sa hospital, kaya mag-pahinga ka na lang ha”, is sweet and caring. But adding: “ang laki nga ng nagastos ko sa hospital bill n’yo eh”, is not necessary and will only make her wish to die early!
Blaming people, when bad things happen is also not good – “ Ikaw kasi eh” Generally people don’t want bad things to happen and blaming them will not help solve a problem but only dampen a good relationship.
In reality, it is impossible not to offend with our speech. We need to pray to God everyday and ask Him to make our speech true, kind and necessary so we will be a channel of blessings in the workplace, at home …everywhere.
Sara Leone, Her Husband’s Crown.