“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” ~Dorothy Nevill
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”, famous words by Walt Disney’s Thumper in the movie Bambi. This wisdom passed down from our furry friend is something most of us have heard as children or at some point in our lives.
Each of us has likely been on the receiving end of hurtful words, as well as taking on the role of dishing it out.
I’ve never experienced a good outcome from uttering unkind words. True, the instant gratification is usually satisfying in a fiery kind of way. But most often these unkind words are the result of feeling hurt or misunderstood. The instant hit from lashing out is an attempt to feel better. As it turns out, the comfort is always short lived.
When our words are laced with cruel intentions, we end up feeling unsettled inside of ourselves. If this cycle isn’t broken, we can damage our relationships with others and the one we all have with ourselves.
Each of us is accountable for how we choose to show up and communicate in the world. We can harness the fine art of conversation to create circles with those around us and put an end to mindlessly fueling separateness.
Sometimes it’s simply a matter of turning off autopilot in order to break the cycle of gossip and negative talk. It’s about being more mindful and intentional with our words and interactions.
In an effort to be more mindful with the words I give life to, I turn to these 3 practices. These reminders help me follow Thumper’s lead.
1) A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way
Kindness shouldn’t ever be mistaken with weakness. Choosing to communicate from a place of compassion and kindness doesn’t mean we hide our truth or swallow how we are really feeling. We can be direct and open in our communications, while also being kind.
One simple way to do this is to remind yourself that the target or receiver of your words is a human being just like you. Before you speak, think about one, two or three of their human qualities you admire and have genuine compassion for. This is a powerful practice that helps remove the trap we all can fall into of adopting an ‘us against them’ mindset. Demonizing and dehumanizing others is a dangerous practice – when we are kind and clear this kind of destructive thinking and conversing doesn’t come into the picture.
2) Mind the Gap
Instead of speaking mindlessly, make room for the pause or gap in conversation. See what happens when you practice listening more. Enjoy the experience of witnessing another.
If conversations take on a negative tone and you’d rather not take part, this is also a great time to take a step back and mind the gap. There is no need to be additive. It’s common to want to be seen and have our voice heard, but it’s also refreshing to say less and listen more. When we practice the art of listening, it becomes much easier to be thoughtful, kind and intentional with the words we do give life to.
3) Set a Daily Intention
Set a daily intention for how you’d like to express yourself. Choose a word or a phrase that embodies how you want to feel in your communications. This intention is really about nurturing the relationship you have with yourself.
When we communicate with intention, we are aligned with our truth and humanity – and that feels good.
When we spread words out into the world that are kind, intentional and on point with who we are, the ripple effect is incredible – words are powerful. How will you craft yours today?
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