Words can hurt or heal, think before you utter them

Before speaking, just THINK, ask yourself five questions: Is what I’m saying true, is it helpful, is it Inspiring, is it necessary, and is it kind?

By Shilpa Bhasin Mehra

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Published: Mon 9 May 2022, 11:25 PM

How easily we say ‘’are you demented, mad, or blind” and not think so much about it. Recently, someone very close to me got a terrible rash, and I promised myself I would not use the phrase ‘’she/he gives me a rash’’ (is so annoying) anymore.

A man in a rush was bumped into by another. He shouted: “Are you blind?’’ The stumbling man replied ‘yes’. All the irritation from the angry person disappeared and was replaced by an apology. Another phrase we hear is: “Are you brain dead?”. If we only knew and realized how serious that condition was, we would never utter those words. When I was in the hospital, my neurologist would visit me twice a day. One day on the phone I heard him say rather sadly that there was nothing he could do because the patient was brain dead. The fatality of the words was loud and clear.

Sometimes, when I am on social media, reels just start playing without me clicking. In many reels, I have heard teachers saying how powerful our words are. We have heard this from the time of the Buddha and even earlier.

We need to think before we speak. The acronym THINK helps us to stay on the right path. Before speaking, just THINK, ask yourself five questions: Is what I’m saying true, is it helpful, is it Inspiring, is it necessary, and is it kind?

T for true: Always make sure what you are saying is true. Don’t try to make something up just because you have something to say.

H for helpful: Helpful words are always appreciated. So, if you have something to say that can be of help to someone, please go ahead and say it.

I for inspiring: Saying something that’s encouraging, motivational, or inspiring is always a good idea. It could be a small compliment or praise.

N for necessary: Speak when necessary or try not to speak. Useless and mundane conversations are best avoided.

K for kind: If you don’t have anything kind to say, don’t say it. Everyone is fighting a battle of some sort, whether evident or not. It’s important and in fact much needed, that we speak kindly to others.

In the last years, we have watched more movies and TV serials than ever before. In many of them, I saw the hurt and complexes that children suffer in school or at home. Comments like you are fat, stupid or ugly’ have stayed on in their minds till they were adults and in fact, for the rest of their lives. I don’t think the people who said those words realized the impact their words would have on the young minds.

Words reveal so much about the person saying them. They reveal our personality, character and nature. We can hurt someone, push them away and the worst part is, we cannot take back

So, the excuse, “I am like that only, I just speak whatever comes to my mind” isn’t good enough. Being brutally honest is not a virtue. Like Voltaire so wisely said, “Everything you say should be true, but not everything true should be said.”

When emotions are running high and during formal meetings, take a few seconds (and a deep breath) to gather your thoughts. Speak in a more rational and controlled manner (even so as to make a few changes to thoughts and words depending on the situation and reaction).

Thinking before speaking doesn’t mean you have to always take time to respond. In fact, once we develop this skill, it can make us think quickly as well. Our mind learns to process our thoughts and form the words faster. And if we still need a moment, we can always ask for it, “I need a minute to gather my thoughts,” is honest.

What we say affects how we think about ourselves and the world around us. Many studies in neuroscience state that this is because our subconscious minds interpret what we say. The constant use of negative words to ourselves or others will see a corresponding mindset linked to the words. On the other hand, positive thinking and consequently positive words can have beneficial impacts on our life as a whole. So, it is all the more important to think before we speak, to prevent feelings of regret, improve our relationships with others, and enjoy a better quality of life by keeping our minds positive. This does not mean we can’t speak our mind to close friends or share a laugh about how we used to be and some crazy childhood tales.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton was not thinking about thoughts and words when he made his laws of motion, but I feel his theory is very apt for what we say too. I will end with this witty quote from Sir Winston Churchill - “By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach.”

Shilpa Bhasin Mehra is an independent legal consultant based in Dubai

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