“Actions speak louder than words.” We’ve all heard that a million times. But, sometimes words speak louder than actions. A rude comment said with a smile burns more than a glare. A condescending tone makes a pat on the back feel worthless. Words of judgment and distain leave no room for inspiration.
In a conflict situation, it’s a lot easier to remember the words that were said than the subtle actions that were done. If a person describes a bad encounter with someone else, the first thing the person will do is quote what the other person said in the confrontation. This is because words matter so much to us.
Unfortunately, some people are extremely talented at being careless with their words. That gifting coupled with a default “angry face” is a horrible combination that the person in question is usually oblivious to. Yet, we’ve all been in a bad mood from time to time. It’s scary to realize the possible destruction we’ve ignorantly left in our wake as we were too consumed by our own irritations to consider how our words were impacting others.
When we have unresolved frustrations in our lives, it affects all of our relationships. We walk around feeling burnt out and offend those we encounter even though we falsely pride ourselves in “pushing through” our day. What if we stepped back and saw how many people we’d wounded simply by rushing to handle situations and thoughtlessly speaking?
I’ve considered myself to be a nice person, but I’ve noticed that the conflicts I’ve handled while not being in a good place in my personal life has left people distant from me. I feel them shy away from me even though we cheerfully greet each other. My words spoke louder than my actions. Sometimes my words even spoke over their words.
Of course there can always be reconciliation and we can prove our true character over time, but obviously it’s much easier to not put ourselves in those situations in the first place. People don’t forget the things we say to them. Harsh words are easy to remember because we can quote them. We keep them. We repeat them to others as we tell our story of hurt. We even mimic the cruel tone and facial expressions we experienced from the other person.
While critical words break us down, words of life restore. Have you ever been having a bad day and a single sentence, text, or email with words of encouragement turned everything around for you? Have you ever repeated those words in your head or reread those words over and over again as you let them engulf you; protecting you from the negative words you’d heard all day?
We should all take the time to encourage and compliment people. Thank our friends simply for being available to us. Call managers to acknowledge hardworking employees at retail stores. Admire people’s choices in groceries in the checkout line. Praise people’s parenting skills after they’ve desperately tried to address an unruly child. We’re all trying. Some of us are less enjoyable to be around than others, but we’re all trying to make it through the day and feel like we’ve done something with our lives.
People are constantly surrounded by negative talk. But, you can use your encouraging words to provide them with a momentary sanctuary of peace and self-worth. As they face opposition in the forms of bullying, insensitive remarks, offensive jokes and belittling comments, arm them with affirmation. Guard them with accolades. Revive them with empathy. Let your words be their shield, because your words could just as easily be their poison.