Many of us use words carelessly. We blurt out our thoughts without thinking how it impacts the other person. I’m constantly reminded that I should speak gently to others, and also to myself.
How to speak gently
1. Speak gently to yourself
This is tricky to work on, because there is no third-party feedback to help you. When we are mean to others, they can let us know. But we often don’t realise what we are telling ourselves. Our self-talk is often negative. We blame ourselves for the failure of a relationship, we tell ourselves we can’t succeed and so on.
Journalling is a good way to start listening to yourself. Write whatever comes to mind, and after a few months you may notice a pattern. In hindsight, I realised that my old patterns included phrases like “This is too good to last”. This made me sabotage my romantic relationships because I was always expecting things to end. And they eventually did, because expectations tend to be self-fulfilling.
2. Use affirmations
Affirmations are a good way to learn to speak to ourselves gently and effectively. Don’t tell yourself, “I have bad skin and nobody will be attracted to me”. Instead, say to yourself everyday, “I have a great smile and people are drawn to my cheerful attitude”. Either way, you will be right because your thoughts create your reality, so you may as well choose the reality you want.
Writing down affirmations is important because this positive self-talk seldom comes naturally to most us. Unless, of course, you were fortunate enough to have extremely affirming parents and this is your thinking pattern from a young age. Since it is not natural, we need to decide what we want to think, write it down, then read it everyday.
3. Speak gently to others
When you are kind to yourself, it becomes easier to be kind to others. We are quick to criticise others when they make a mistake, but often omit to praise them when they are doing something right. Yet it only takes a minute to tell someone what you appreciate about them.
We often justify criticism of others by saying “it’s for their own good”. But the truth is usually that we are irritated inside and just need to vent our negative thoughts. This type of criticism seldom improves a person, but makes them defensive instead. The only time to offer feedback is when someone asks for it. And even then, be kind.
4. Give a compliment everyday
Our conditioning has trained us to focus on what goes wrong instead of what goes right. We are quick to point out mistakes made by our spouses, children, friends and colleagues.You can balance this negative thinking by deliberately finding someone to compliment everyday.
Remind yourself to say something nice to someone the moment you arrive at work, or before you head home for the day. More importantly, say something nice the moment your arrive home to your family. You can change your immediate environment with your words.
So go for it. Ignore the awkwardness and dump the excuses. Of course you can do it. Remember how you wanted to change the world when you were little? Well, you can start by changing your life today. Speak gently to those who cross your path. Be a force for good.