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If You Use Words This Way, You Could Be Hurting

I started playing Elevate—the brain training app to improve reading, writing, speaking, and mathematics. Today, I played a game that increases vocabulary, which I love. I’m all about discovering new words to detail our human experience. After all, vocabulary is our most utilized resource to express ourselves. The more clear and articulate we can be, the more likely to be understood and build connection. But because so many are unintentional with their language, separation occurs.

Today’s word was rend. Rend was defined by Elevate to mean to tear apart, split, or divide, but it has a better ring than its synonyms (imo). Probably because it rhymes with mend and bend—two other words that, when paired with rend, create a nice balance of letting go, healing, and flexibility. But today when I read the definition for rend, I had a visceral reaction. Just as each witnessing the use of words to criticize, hurt, convince, shame, guilt, and a whole plethora of distasteful tactics that inherently create division. Sometimes words are used as a weapon without even realizing it.

You may have heard the phrase “Hurt people hurt people.”

The same goes for shamed people, guilted people, and criticized people. Trust me, I’ve been that person—out of resources to express myself and left automating with tactics that are harmful, yet successful. Most can’t see these qualities because they’ve been stuffed deep down, covered up with façade or passive aggressiveness, portrayed as something that resembles nicety. Until a trigger comes along, and KAPOW!, words laced with pain lunge out like a crocodile from murky waters. No one sees it coming. Prior to this, at some point, shame, guilt, and criticism have been used to provoke a response out of you, and it worked. So, without other resources, you default to using these tactics in the same way. You say things you don’t mean and use your words unintentionally because you simply don’t know how else to express yourself or get someone to understand your meaning. It is validating when these weapons work, but it’s only for the short term. If communication were truly effective, you and the recipient would feel uplifted rather than broken down.

I know if you had a better way of communicating, you would use it. No one wants to leave their spouse, co-workers, children, or the person in the grocery store feeling like they were a punching bag.

So how do you get a grip when your emotions overwhelm you??

First, you have to physically know what your emotions feel like. When you feel angry, where do you feel it? (head, chest, etc) Is it the same place as frustration or sadness? Most likely not. Once you know where your emotions land in your body, look for early onset. Oftentimes we don’t know what emotion we’re experiencing until it’s pouring out, but if you can notice your subtle physical response to daily interactions, you’ll start to see your emotions rise earlier, before expressing them. At which point, you can use yoga tools to manage or calm the emotion.

Sometimes the emotion is too strong or overwhelming that a little deep breathing doesn’t do the trick. At this point, you have to notice exactly what is bothering you. Do you feel taken advantage of? Overlooked? Misunderstood? What was said or done to make you feel this way? Most likely, the smaller nuances, like missing trash day or spilled coffee, are just annoyances on top of your existing BIG emotion. However, if you get to the root of the emotion, you can process it, and all the annoyances that came after its onset will feel less important.

Lastly, if the emotion lingers after the previous two steps, it’s time to have a conversation. Before diving in, get your heart right. What do you really want out of having the exchange? Connection? Support? Understanding? Move into the conversation ready to listen instead of trying to be heard, with a goal in mind of how you want both parties to feel afterward. If you feel the conversation diverting, stay on track and listen more intentionally to the other person.

Relationships never grow from hurt, guilt, or shame. Trust never forms when words are used as weapons. Try the techniques and watch what happens, feel what happens. You will be amazed at how you get what you want by lifting others up.

Justina and the Ignite Yoga Team

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