THE PROBLEM WITH WORDS
I love it when subjects to write about hit me while I'm brushing my teeth or going about my day. This one hit me while I was applying make-up. What do words have to do with make-up? I'm not sure, but maybe I'll figure it out as I write.
This subject has been building for several weeks. When something happens over and over it's destined to become a writing subject. Over the past few months, I've had so many people talk about the power of words and this subject recently became personal when I sent an email that I later regretted. A friend of mine did the same thing two weeks ago when she failed to scroll to the end of an email that she thought was encouraging. She sent it to several friends only to discover with great embarrassment that the ending was extremely inappropriate.
There's no doubt about it, words can get us into trouble and the wrong words can bring a lot of hurt. I'm sure many relationships have been harmed or destroyed by careless words or words that were taken in a way they weren't intended. And once you press "send," it's too late.
In some cases, what we're trying to say just doesn't come out right. I remember a letter I sent to a friend a long time ago. I was trying to explain my frustration with her requests when she came in for haircuts. This girl was very trendy. She had great hair and she wanted her hair to stand out in a crowd. At the time, I was thinking of getting out of the hair business and maybe my heart just wasn't in it, but I tried to tell her in a nice way that perhaps she should try another stylist because every stylist has her strengths and weaknesses. The hairstyles she wanted were not my strength.
I haven't heard from her since I sent that letter. It's obvious that she was offended by something in that letter. Something I said didn't come out right or was taken in a way it wasn't intended. But the thing I keep coming back to is that if our friendship really meant something to her, wouldn't she have wanted to discuss it? I tried. Are words that powerful that we can walk away from a friendship just because of them? I guess so.
The thing about letters and emails is that we can't see body language and facial expressions. We can't hear the person's tone of voice as we read, and we can't ask for clarification if we misunderstand. For those reasons, a face to face conversation should always be the first choice. The second option is a phone conversation because at least with that we can hear the person's voice and we're able to discuss any misunderstandings.
I love to write letters. Call me old fashioned, but there's something about pulling a card or letter out of an envelope. There's also the excitement of seeing that envelope in the mailbox with my name on it. It's just more exciting than email. Somehow it seems more significant. Maybe because it took more time and thought. I prefer letters to email. And I probably send more cards and letters than I make phone calls.
Communication is a good thing. Even an email is better than not saying anything. I think the problem with words is that perhaps we don't try hard enough to really understand. We don't call the person after we get a questionable letter or email to make sure that what we read and understood is exactly what the person meant. And perhaps we don't take the time to think about what we're saying and how it might be taken. And sometimes we don't take the time to read every word before we pass it on.
We have all said things that we wish we wouldn't have said. Every one of us has had a moment when we wished we could have turned back time and been more careful with our words. It's for that reason that we need to be forgiving when it comes to words. We need to give each other the benefit of the doubt. Just because a few words didn't come out right is no reason to turn our backs on someone.
Maybe the reason I thought of this subject while putting on make-up is because when someone reads this they might be prompted to make up with the one they're mad at. They might come to realize that the relationship is worth more than a few poorly said words. Or they might come to see that an apology is in order. Words have great power, and sometimes it's the power to heal and restore.