It’s all in the conversation. Conversations made up of words. Of expressions. Of emotions.
And even of silence: Nothingness, when words should be exchanged. Emotions revealed. Feelings shared.
Every word carries messages. Every nuance conveys meanings. Words spoken while on “autopilot” may signal indifference on behalf of the speaker. Every tap on a cell phone while pretending to listen likely communicates disrespect. Words charged with emotion – double charged with facial and body language – accentuate the intent for better or for worse.
A tinge of anger can provoke fear or indifference or more anger. A sneer suggests the same or worse. A smile reinforced with warmth invites openness from the other party.
Think of it this way: Every word has the potential to act as a “trigger.” It invites (or provokes) a reaction whether intended or not. The triggers that most concern us as mediators are words that evoke disgust, despair, fear, and contempt.
- You should have done this.
- You could have said that.
- He never does his share.
- Why did you ………… whatever.
These are trigger words that invite defensive reactions – words that separate us, rather than unite us.
Compare, for example, uncertain with bewildered with confused. Or, dismayed with annoyed with enraged. Or, humbled with demeaned with humiliated. The list goes on and on.
Words Have Power
- They can create goodwill and support.
- They can incite despair, sadness and feelings of rejection.
This applies especially to the elderly who often feel vulnerable as their autonomy shrinks and dependence swells. Triggers can also widen the gulf that often separates siblings who share responsibility for older parents or relations. Conversely, they can enhance collaboration and mutual respect.
The next time you feel compelled to express your concern, stop, think about how your words will play out, and reframe them in ways that don’t risk alienation but encourage support and cooperation. For example, ask an elder whether there is another way she might deal with a situation. Or, how he thinks he should handle an issue.
It’s a practice that’s not hard to cultivate, and that yields a harvest of goodwill.
Beyond Dispute Associates
Comments from Social Media
I loved your words and considerations in the text: “Don’t Pull That Trigger (Word)!”Deep and bright. As a Portuguese native speaker, to learn English is a very hard challenge. But to understand how and when(or not) to use the words and their effects seems much more important. Again, thank you for your words!
Geisa Paganini De Mio
Yes Carolyn, I believe too. Words, if gentle, can fetch you a gift from a person’s pocket but if hash can fetch you a weapon- a Yoruba proverb. We say here in Nigeria, proverbs are as vehicles if you run short of words of wisdom, jump into the vehicles of proverbs to fetch some. Thoughts are expressed in words, and words manifest in action. Until God spoke the word, nothing happened in Gen 1:1-3. Words not only give commands and keep the world moving the quality and quantity of your word will define you.
Ambassador Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin, Ph.D Diplomatic Representative for Nigeria
Carefully choose your words….always.
Jill Kalter, MPA, CP
© Sig Cohen and Beyond Dispute Associates, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sig Cohen and Beyond Dispute Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.