Put Down Your Weapons: Let's Use Our Words with Kindness - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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Put Down Your Weapons: Let's Use Our Words with Kindness

Oct 21, 2014


When I wrote to you about communication before I jokingly called the article Emotional Atyachaar - Use Emotions to Communicate Better. In that article I said that it's not reason or logic that helps get the message across, it's emotions. By evoking emotions in your listener you can get them to see your side, believe your ideas, buy your products...

The greatest communicators understand the power of evoking emotion through their words... Watch Obama stand up in a crowd of thousands and move them to tears... listen to Modi's impassioned voice rise and fall, bringing our nation to its feet ... and you will understand what I mean. - Emotional Atyachaar: Use It to Communicate Better

Infusing emotions in your words can make them more effective, yes. But I never talked about the opposite. I never addressed the issue that these powerful emotions, when evoked, can cause as much pain as good. Although words can evoke strong emotions, these emotions can be positive, or negative.

"The signs of a strong marriage can be seen in the bite marks on your tongue, from biting back angry words when you are fighting," a friend in a long happy marriage had once told me.

Words can hurt, they can scar, they can destroy relationships and cripple self-esteem. This is true not just of marriages but of any relationship. Friendships, employer-employee, student-teacher, even family. Have you ever witnessed those long, bitter, battles between siblings? Have you ever craved approval from your parents and instead got scolded?

We teach children this old rhyme saying, 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me'. Truth is, they absolutely can. Words can be weapons. If you're going to drop a bomb, be ready for the consequence of shattered lives, limbs and hearts, as you will see in this video.

Words Can Be Weapons

Your words are more powerful than you know. Once spoken, they are out there, and become the weapons that hurt both you and those around you. Years later, when you've forgotten your anger, someone will still carry the wound in their heart. Like the children in this video whose parents' words drove them to a life of abuse and crime.

Who have you stabbed with your words? 'You are a disgrace, a moron, useless, you are garbage' ? Who are you shooting at with the bullets of your gaalis*?

The dark side of honesty

I've always been very proud of being straightforward. If a thought crossed my mind I would say it, whatever it was, as it was. Honest, to a fault.

But there's more to that phrase than I had considered. It's called being honest to a fault because there is a fault in it. When words are spewing out of my mouth unchecked, am I thinking about what impact these words are having on those around me? Or am I so obsessed with being seen as 'an honest person' that I don't care who I'm hurting?

Honesty can easily be used as an excuse to lash out. I am right, therefore I will say what I want.

But compassion is as important as honesty. If you are honestly going to shatter a life, break a heart, or bring forth a tear, then your honesty is worse than a lie.

Instead, soften your honesty with a filter of kindness.

Convey honesty with words that get your message across in a helpful productive way, instead of an angry harmful way.

Words can be harmful, or words can be productive

In Satyamev Jayate, Aamir talks about some very difficult issues, and he is faced with the bureaucrats and politicians that can do something about them, but don't. He is honest. In fact the whole premise of the show is that truth will triumph (satyamev jayate).

But he doesn't point fingers and just distribute blame. He is constructive in his use of words, communicating through facts and feelings to bring the issue to the fore, to make people realize what the reality is, or what a mess things are in.

And his show is effective. It moves people to tears and action. His words heal and inspire.

Because he uses simple authentic communication to connect with people on the grounds of common good. Let us all work together to accept this honest truth and change it.

So use your words to help, not hurt

When you're being honest, let your honesty benefit people. Honest but angry rants are rarely helpful, and won't change anything.

"Words are... the most powerful drug used by mankind," said Rudyard Kipling. It's a drug we all have access to. We must choose how to use it.

When someone yells at us, we often shut down. If you scold your employee saying, 'Idiot, what a bad job you have done,' they are not thinking that 'next time I will do a better job'. They get defensive and think, 'it wasn't my fault.' Nothing changes, a relationship gets stressed, and feelings are hurt.

A good leader will approach the issue calmly, communicate what should have been done, and help people to do a better job.

You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, the old saying goes. If you communicate with someone kindly, they will go out of their way to do a better job. If you are vindictive, they will do a grudging job.

Find your calm place

But what if you're so angry that vinegar comes pouring out?

Often we say hurtful words because we ourselves are hurt or angry. Sometimes it feels as though we have no choice... that the words just spill out of us. But we do have a choice. Just as we would not hit someone in anger, so we can also choose not to hurt someone emotionally with our words.

Next time you are so angry you feel as though you're about to say the wrong thing, stop. Breathe. Calm down. Have a cup of chai. Go for a walk. Play Candy Crush on your phone.

In New York there's a restaurant, where you can pay to smash glass plates against a wall (I hear there's one in Mumbai, too, now). If you're in the neighbourhood go there and smash some plates.

Make the world a better place

Now that you've released any pent up hurt and anger, you can go back and have that difficult conversation from a calm place. You can now think rationally, use the power of kindness your words are capable of, and inspire someone instead of hurting them.

Words can be wonderful. And they can be hurtful. Choose them carefully because they make you more powerful than you know. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the tongue is mightier still. So before you unleash your words on someone, find the kindness that lies within you, and choose to inspire.

Choose words that become bigger than you - words that inspire a great life, that give birth to great ideas, that give rise to great friendships, that can make the world a better place.

As Robin Williams, a man who always used his words to make the world laugh, said: "No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world."

*abusive words


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20 Responses to "Put Down Your Weapons: Let's Use Our Words with Kindness"

28 Sep, 2016

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01 Sep, 2016

the concrete, under high stresses it may pull out of the concrete, an event that often as well as the studs and joists (if these areas are opened up) Keep in mind not wear this one out its sturdy enough to stand a massive amount of weight on NFLCommissioner RogerGoodell. "He is a proven businessman and has experienced success in all of his sports

SK Sharma

19 Mar, 2015

Pl. show english or hindi equivalent of this Chinese video so that all can understand and corelete. Thanks.

Like (1)

Ghanshyam Verma

14 Mar, 2015

Dear Anisa, For all the good articles on better living..

Like (1)

Sharath chandra

05 Nov, 2014

A wrong word uttered can not be taken back. Even if you apologise later, and even the person at the receiving end forgives you, the scra caused by the words remain forever. So one should be very careful in their speech more so when you want to point out some mistakes and when you want admonish some one. Very beautiful article. Keep on writing such articles.

Like (1)


26 Oct, 2014

" Stones & Sticks may break my Bones: but words can't hurt me " is not true. Words can do more damage than stones & sticks. Apt remarks. beautifully narrated article. God Bless You.

Like (1)

Shyam Nambiar

24 Oct, 2014

Thank you very much Anisa, this article is thought provoking.. as parents we hardly realize how it can positively or negatively mould the personality of our children and people around.. also thank you for all the good articles on better living...

Like (1)


23 Oct, 2014

The writing gives the facts in a very effective way. We do not know when our voice is raised while discussing or argueing even though such things can be uttered with calmness instead of raising the voice. But it generally happens when u r unable to control your anger and raising the voice.

Om Prakash Sharma

23 Oct, 2014

Lord Krishna has famously said,"At times telling a truth and hurting the person is far more worse than telling a lie."


22 Oct, 2014

I appreciate your detailed explanations asto how the words are effective,


22 Oct, 2014

Thanks for the article. It truely helps build a better society.

Brig(Retd) Dr.RRN Chowdary

22 Oct, 2014

It is my first comment on your good work. Let me thank you for such wonderful work. You have very well clarified the dilemma between honesty or kindness in communication. Often we prefer the first in the military and it doesn't work out well in personal life with your family members. I realise it now.A great piece of work.

Like (2)


22 Oct, 2014

Once again a beautiful article.But so many times the anger is something like a Nuclear Bomb ,which explodes unexpectedly .and before you know the words are SHOT . Of course one can also have a control over it . any way ,at a lighter side --- the place in Mumbai ,I really hope ,THEY SHOULD KEEP UNBREAKABLE plates there .


22 Oct, 2014

A well written article which has put across an important fact so simply and so well. Completely thought provoking and a catalyst for immediate action and change of habits. Would have loved to read it two decades ago or even earlier. Anyways, it is never too late....... Well done Anisa!

J S Brar

22 Oct, 2014

Dear Anisha, I have been enjoying your articles but never thanked you. Please let me thank you for the wonderful information you are disseminating. The world would be a different place if all of us thought deeper before opening our mouths.

Prashant Dwivedi

22 Oct, 2014

Very effective and evoked to think twice -thrice before showing anger. Need to overcome the wrong usage of words.


22 Oct, 2014

Wonderful articale

Satyabrata Maiti

22 Oct, 2014

Wonderfully presented the right thing to ponder. But in reality what happens we anger arises, we loose sense of awarness of what we are going to do. Breaking the plates and cup is not the solution. Increase your awareness about moment to moment, that would be the solution. But how to do it that is a big question. Find your own ways.


22 Oct, 2014

excellent, one cannot get back stone thrown and the words uttered , as the saying in malayalam states.


21 Oct, 2014

Nice post Anisa, really appreciate it. Nice topic. It's really true that words are powerful and deadly. if we look in to our own lives we can find out how our thinking and destiny to an extent has been influenced by others thinking and their suggestions to us. We are continually bombarded with suggestions and words, which either encourage us or discourage us,which moves us to a certain action - good or bad. As it is said that a smile can be spread by starting to smile. Similarly good words and kind words can spread goodness and happiness around us. People react to us depending on the tone and the words that we use. So be careful when we speak . Words are things that people use so irresponsibly and carelessly without understanding the implications. The video of the children in the juvenile center, gives us a clear idea how words can be dangerous. how words go into our subconscious mind and makes us do things we would not do otherwise. So isn't that something for us to learn? So next time when we open our mouth to speak, just stop for a moment and think, before uttering anything that comes to our mind. Instead think of how to use the right words and the right emotions for the occasion. Any situation can be dealt aptly with correct speech . And such a person with superb control over the tongue can achieve a lot. Only a thinking person can speak carefully.

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