There are two basic problems that occur in our communications with each other. One is that we said something we shouldn’t have said. The other is that we didn’t say something we should have said.
In elementary schools there are posters with THINK printed on them to remind children what they should consider before they speak. The T reminds us to ask ourselves whether what we are about to say is TRUE. If you spread a rumour, lie, or share an inaccurate fact, who benefits? Likely the only person who benefits is you, and in most cases that benefit will be only short-lived until the rumours come back around or the lies catch up to you. If it’s not true, don’t say it. If you’re not sure whether it’s true, check your facts then check the next point before you share it.
The H reminds us to ask ourselves whether what we are about to say is HELPFUL. There are many TRUE statements that are not HELPFUL to share. For example, if you walk into someone’s house and say, “Wow, looks like you haven’t had any time to do housework,” this may be true, but saying it serves no helpful purpose.
The I reminds us to ask ourselves whether what we are about to say is INSPIRING. I actually prefer the word encouraging, but since THINK is not spelled with an E they went with INSPIRING. The choice of words and the delivery are what makes a message encouraging. The helpful and true components of the message will be ignored if it’s discouraging.
The N reminds us to ask ourselves whether what we are about to say is NECESSARY. What you say should serve a purpose: to make someone’s life easier, safer, happier, fix a problem, design a plan, inform, or entertain. It’s not NECESSARY to notify people of things that they already know, talk for the sake of talking, or correct a person for errors that don’t impact the outcome of the conversation in any way. If you say too many unnecessary things, people will start to avoid and ignore you.
The K reminds us to ask ourselves whether what we are about to say is KIND. This one is subjective because, like medicine, sometimes the NECESSARY HELPFUL TRUTH tastes bad and is hard to swallow. It can sometimes seem mean or like the person doesn’t care, but if what they said will make your life better in some way, take it with a grain of salt. Just because something is hard to hear, doesn’t mean it’s mean.
If something that someone said rubbed you the wrong way, it’s possible that they didn’t THINK before they spoke, but it’s also possible that you weren’t ready to hear what they said. If you are trying to recover from the sting of someone’s words, ask yourself the following questions:
What was the intentionality of the speaker? If a person says something that is based in ignorance or distraction rather than malicious intent, don’t take it personally. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion and if you don’t share that opinion, simply ignore what they said. If they said it to be malicious, don’t interact with them.
What pushed your button? You need to dig deeper than the surface to answer this question. Find out exactly what rubbed you the wrong way – did they touch on an insecurity that embarrasses you? Did they remind you of someone else who made you feel bad about yourself? Are you mad at yourself for not saying something back and standing up for yourself?
Maybe it wasn’t even what they said. Maybe it was something that happened earlier in the day and they were just the icing on the cake that pushed you over the edge. If what they said is something that wouldn’t have normally bothered you, it was likely your own mood that impacted your response.
What is your relationship to the person who said it? We assign different weight to comments based on where they came from. Ironically, it is often feedback from strangers that stings the most – probably because we know they have a non-biased opinion and no reason to hold back. Keep in mind that strangers don’t know everything about you or your situation.
If there is some truth to what a person said and you would like to use it as a place to focus self-improvement, fine. If they are off base and imposing their own expectations on you, just say “thanks for your input” then let it go.
Words are powerful and as with all sources of power, they can be used to help people or destroy people. Use and receive words wisely