Words That Matter, Part 8

December 28, 2015

Personal Growth

We’re often careless with our words, and some of them are so laden with negative meanings that we cause great harm without realizing it. Recently I began a discussion of such words,
Words That Matter Part 7
Words That Matter Part 6
Words That Matter Part 5
Words That Matter Part 4
Words That Matter Part 3
Words That Matter Part 2
Words That Really Matter

and now we’ll continue:

YOU

“I’m so disappointed that you . . .”
“I’m so angry that you . . .”
“You never . . . “
“You always . . .”
“You didn’t turn off the light—again.” (spoken with an irritated tone)
“Why are you doing that?”
“You need to . . .”
“I don’t like it when you . . .”
“You make me angry when you . . .”

When such expressions are directed toward us, we naturally tend to take them personally. Why? Because they include—and are focused on—the word YOU, meaning us. Moreover these expressions are invariably accompanied by facial expressions, tone of voice, body posture, and more that indicate that the speaker is irritated at US. We hear:
“What is wrong with you?”
“You are defective.”
“You are considerably less lovable when you . . .”
“You are so inconvenient and disappointing.”

In short, when the word “you” is spoken to us with impatience, disappointment, or irritation, we hear or feel the words “I don’t love you.” The effect is devastating, since the one thing we want most is to feel loved, and the one thing we want most to avoid is disapproval or the withdrawal of love. A disapproving “you” spoken to a child is like a knife to the soul, leaving a wound that often will fester for a lifetime.

What can we do about the destructive effects of “you” spoken in anger? We can learn to tell the truth about ourselves, instead of blaming other people. We can learn to talk about “I” and “me” instead of “you.” For example:

“I’m not having a good day today. I’m irritable and over-reacting to everything, So a minute ago when I blamed you for making me angry, I was wrong. I was wrong to blame you, and I was wrong to be angry. I was expressing my own pain, not anything about you.”

“I need your help. Would you be willing to do XX and YY in the next couple of hours?” (as opposed to manipulating or intimidating with “you never . . .” for example)

“Several times this week I’ve been annoyed with you and blamed you. But the truth is that I’ve just not been feeling loved, and what I really needed was some attention from you. But instead of just asking you for some time attention, I became irritated at you. I was unloving and wrong.”

The moment we speak the word “you” in anything less than a loving way:

  • We tend to injure the person we’re speaking to, as discussed previously.
  • We feel disconnected from the person we’re speaking to, and often disconnected from everyone else because of the overall selfishness we experience as we are blaming and annoyed.
  • The person we’re speaking to immediately tends to begin resisting us or defending himself, which make it impossible for him to hear the specific instruction we’re trying to communicate. The other person is so busy being defensive that he doesn’t even hear the discussion we wanted to have.

In future blogs we’ll discuss more words that have a much greater negative effect than we realize or intend.

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