The lost art of speaking kindly

There is a deep rooted problem in society today.

It appears that many people in our society has lost the art of speaking kindly to one another. Sure, there are probably small pockets of decent humanity where the art of speaking kindly is a delicatessen. However, in general, we seemed to have forgotten the importance of how we speak with others. This has a significant impact. And, majority of the time, we make up foolish excuses as to reasons we do not speak kindly to others.

In my early twenties, I had a gentleman counsel me. His words still ring true today. He remarked how people have an emotional bank account. With any bank account, we want to make sure that we always make enough deposits. If we do not, and we take too much money out, the account becomes overdrawn.

Today, we seemed to be making more withdrawals than we are making deposits.

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And, not only are we making significant withdrawals from other individuals, we are making significant withdrawals from our own emotional bank accounts.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

The lost art of speaking kindly to one another, and to our own self, starts with how we come to understand the way we treat self and others.

We begin to speak kindly too ourselves

This is important because we want to consider how we treat ourselves first. How we treat ourselves stems from how we speak to ourselves. Once we understand how we speak and treat our own personage, we begin to realize how we speak and treat other people around us. We fail to grasp the extreme and rigid viewpoint of either being selfless or selfish.

How do we repair an emotional bank account that is overdrawn? We start making daily deposits until the account goes from being a negative balance to a positive balance. We keep going to ensure that there is enough to cover any possible withdrawal. Yet, most of us tend to walk away in the hopes of avoiding the negative. Unfortunately, we continue to carry the negative balance throughout our lives. However, when we stop running from our fears and emotions, we begin to embrace and take responsibility for how we feel, and what we are saying; we begin to heal by speaking kindly. 

This requires grace toward self-identity. And, the more grace we show ourselves, the more we pour into speaking kindly, the outcome naturally follows to where we are capable of speaking kindly toward other people.

How we speak into other people’s lives leaves a significant impression on them

People will not remember what we have done for them. They may even forget what was even said to them. As Maya Angelou teaches us, they will remember how we have influenced the way they felt. If we speak harshly, with condemnation and judgment, they will remember how they felt angered, hurt, betrayed, or frustrated. However, if we speak with thoughtful and genuine kindness, they will remember the comfort and peace it brought into their lives.

Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace ~ Buddha

When we are speaking into people’s lives, we are using a powerful influence to contribute something meaningful and purposeful; or, we are exerting our powerful influence to injure and hurt another person. This is because our tongue has a significant power to speak life or death:

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. ~ Proverbs 12: 18, ESV

Our words either tear someone down, or are uplifting and comforting them.

8 simple principles to remember

First, we want to begin speaking thoughtfully toward ourselves, and then toward other people. We speak with validation. There is acknowledgement, compassion, and empathy in how we speak to self and toward others. Our words truly reflect and illuminate who we are.

Secondly, we want to be kind toward self and others when we speak. This does not mean we have to forfeit our need to be direct and assertive. We have the capacity to show kindness even when we are making a firm and direct stance.

We have the power to influence people through our kindness than we do in detracting them with unpleasant and unkind methods.

Third, we develop a genuine need to listen attentively. This requires some patience on our part. Instead of processing what we want to say next, we are failing to connect with and understand the conversation. Even our own body language shows whether we are speaking kindly or not. In those quiet moments where we tend to listening attentively in order to show kindness toward self and others.

The next principle requires the art of mindfulness. Speaking kindly to self and others requires our ability to reserve any form of judgment. We all have personal biased opinions. As human beings, we also have a proneness to be reactionary from an emotional viewpoint.  We like to say, think before you speak! Yet, how many of us follow this rule of thumb? By reserving our judgment, we are thoughtfully engaged in hearing what another person is saying. It is when we are consciously aware of their own humanity, we become more invested in the interaction with them.

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Fifth, we want to be honest. We want to speak kindly by maintaining integrity. We want to speak with truthfulness with compassion – even when speaking truthfully maybe hurtful for self and others to hear. There is no pussyfooting around the mulberry bush; especially when we are engaged in a more serious conversation.

Sixth principle is to understand the need to consider the other person’s opinion. Many times, we are speaking in a manner to prove our sense of right! Some years back, I had engaged in an innocent conversation over Excedrin. It involved my daughters mother. I had mentioned that I lived with a gentleman who liked to chew on Excedrin tablets. His reasoning was because of the codeine contained in the medication. We engaged in a bantering debate. Inevitably, she pulled out a bottle of Excedrin and had me read the ingredients. Sure enough, I was wrong. The problem: I pushed the issue because I believed I was right, especially without evidence.

We want to value the other person’s opinion and we want to be open and receptive regarding their opinion. Because, when we are speaking kindly with self and others, we may be open and receptive to new possibilities and opportunities we may not have considered.

One of the important things we want to consider is not to yell. When we raise our voice, whatever it is we say becomes irrelevant. We are no longer talking with other people, we are talking at them. We also have come to a place where we’ve lost control and the conversation becomes different, sometimes volatile. We want to be at a place of managing our emotions so that we are not becoming emotionally reactive. Once we are emotionally reactive, we may say things that upon later reflection, we might regret, or say something that may cause a serious withdrawal from their emotional bank account.

We want to ensure that we bring ourselves to calm, collect our thoughts, take ownership of our own feelings, and respond kindly that communicates our own frustration and emotional state.

Finally, we want to show our appreciation and gratitude. Nothing speaks more volumes of kindness and appreciation than a simple “thank you for your time,” or, “I appreciate the hard work you are doing.”

Where do we go from here?

Each of us has an emotional bank account. When we speak kindly to ourselves, and toward other people, we are engaging in a lost art of conversation. We are empowering, lifting others up, and being a person of influence. And, as we engage in this lost art of society, the hope is that by our speaking kindly and gently toward self and others is the motivating factor to influence others to begin speaking kindly.


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