WORDS MAY NOT COME EASILY ...

Are you like me – do you think of just the right words, just the right response to a clever or witty comment, but too late to actually say them? For me this has happened far too often and I have kicked myself as the conversation has moved on from the point where my witty/clever/ pertinent comment would have slotted in so well. C’est la vie.

THOSE WHOSE BRAIN AND MOUTH WORK IN TANDEM

How I envy those, such as Steven Fry, who always seem to have the mot juste readily available. Gosh, I bet they are good at Scrabble to boot.

It’s so much easier with the written word when you can edit, use a thesaurus, spell check and generally titivate. Now there’s a good old fashioned word that I love. Nothing like a bit of titivating – of myself, of the garden whatever. For me the very word implies that whatever goes on will not be too laborious, too demanding of either physical or mental energy. Therefore, if the garden is involved, I am soon outside and achieving, and doing so before I realise that I am. I have tricked myself into achieving far more than anticipated – so in a way, my brain and my mouth are acting in my best interests by using a little self-trickery.  Once started, I don’t seem to notice that the pace picks up, the tools move from small secateurs to huge long loppers, the trowel is swapped for a spade. Had I had the intention to set out straight away with said loppers and spade, I could well have built in excuses, and procrastinated long enough for me to not even make a start with putting on my wellies!

WHAT IF WE WISH WE COULD HAVE SWALLOWED OUR WORDS?

Sometimes words leap to our lips and escape from our mouths before we have actually considered any possible repercussions. The words may not have the desired response – or maybe at either a conscious or subconscious level you had intended them to be accompanied by a sharp, prickly barb?

I had a friend who would give compliments but they were so often accompanied by that barb, the sting in the tail that if it didn’t happen, I was surprised rather than vice versa.  When externally related comments, as maybe a comment about something in my garden, it is easier to shrug them off than if aimed at you personally.  

We have to accept that sometimes a word that we use may drag up memories that can lead to a seemingly over-reaction on the listener’s part. This happened to me in the counselling situation when I used the word ‘dither’ with a client when describing my inability to make a choice about something. The word was not used ‘at’ them, ‘to’ them, ‘about’ them but it was one that they apparently used to have regularly thrown at them by an abusive parent in a very nasty, negative, hurtful way. Their reaction to hearing the word spoken by me, one that they had not heard for many years was to instantly burst into tears and sit sobbing as they had done as a child. Obviously, we worked with and through this, and my use of ‘dither’ actually led to some positive steps being taken by my client.

WHAT IF WE DO SWALLOW OUR WORDS?

I do not read my horoscope. However, when I saw this I thought that it was me to a tee. I was mooching around Google, and came across – ‘You know when a Capricorn is very angry when they suddenly become quiet.’ IS it anything to do with my birth date, or more to do with my upbringing? A question for another time, another place methinks.

As a class teacher, I very rarely raised my voice. The children just knew by my body language – the looks, the hands on hips, the quiet that was almost louder than any shout that I was not well pleased.  They responded accordingly, with my quiet quickly spreading around the room, usually ending with the perpetrators of any naughtiness who were always the last ones to realise what was happening.

I have never liked going off at the deep end, venting my fury, flinging words at someone. On the rare occasions that it has happened, in extreme circumstances, I have felt that I have let myself down, have lowered myself to the level of the person on the receiving end of my diatribe. OK, I admit that it was extremely satisfying to see the look on their face as my vent was so out of character for me. But that was not the aim … in fact, was there an aim other than simply getting out the emotional mayhem erupting inside me?  I usually take a breath, and swallow those words which may cause hurt. I then have to endeavour to not allow them to keep going round and round in my head. I will sometimes achieve this by writing down the words and then scribbling all over them or screwing up the paper and burning it. That way, they are released but in a controlled way.

Maybe it is the fact that I never heard my parents argue that I see verbal anger, or any form of anger display in such a negative light. Maybe not everyone realises that my silence IS extreme anger – they are not reading the fury in my body language, the inner fight to retain control of this fury rather than lower myself by bellowing like a fishwife. In some cases, I am sure this is seen as a sign of weakness on my behalf, of giving in. It is far from this.  I have been too hurt by words flung at me and can clearly recall them, along with the feelings they evoked. I have also worked with many clients who have been similarly affected and am well aware of how long lasting and deeply wounding this remembering can be.

This does not mean that I don’t stand up for myself, I do and always will do though it may not always be easy to make my voice heard. At times such as this, I return to my classroom strategies of speaking in a quiet, even tone of voice which can draw attention just as effectively as loudly shouted words.

I encourage clients to do the same; not to accept verbal put downs, whether they believe these to have been spoken without thought, or intentionally aimed at inflicting hurt. In such cases, I believe it is better to take that breath, but this time to follow it up, using a level tone of voice, by questioning the comment made, or making the speaker aware of the hurt that they have caused. Not always easy, but so much better for you than internalising the comment and going over and over it, or complaining to others about what was said. Something that does get easier once you have taken that step of standing up for yourself. If you don’t do this, the speaker will no doubt work on the assumption that it is acceptable to speak to you as they did and in all likelihood will continue to do so.

WHAT IF WE GET MORE THAN WE ASKED FOR?

This can happen if we ask for an opinion as with ‘does my bum look big in this?’ or ‘Do I look like mutton dressed as lamb?’ If we put the question out there, we have to accept the answer, even if it isn’t the one we wanted. If that is the case, and our motive was seeking affirmation rather than possible criticism, maybe best to keep the question a mental one and rely on our own opinion and counsel. If we do actually let the words out, then we have to accept the return words as well as the tone of voice used, the body language which often gives away any true feelings. I was caught out by this when visiting a friend who had just decorated their dining room – grey walls, the furniture also having been converted from a natural wood colour to the same grey. There were so splashes of colour for relief and I didn’t even have to answer the question ‘do you like it’ before it was thrown at me, that by the look on my face, I didn’t. Whoops, but the question HAD been asked and we are all entitled to hold our own opinions. I believe I learned a lesson with that comment, though whether my face has always subsequently obliged with keeping my true thoughts secret, I am very doubtful. Certainly I am sure my micro-expressions would give the game away, but hopefully the smile will convince most questioners!

WORDS COME AND GO

Language and vocabulary are evolving beasts, changing to reflect changes in the world around us.

Because of this, words are regularly removed from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Some will not be missed, some I had never heard of, whilst others were amongst those I would consider contributed in a positive way to the language I and many others use as they included many related to our natural world such as heron, ivy, cowslip, pasture, bluebell. Amongst those added were broadband, blog, chatroom, cut-and-paste.

As a nature lover, as a teacher of many children, as a believer that we need to have a knowledge of the natural world around us – I consider that by removing so many words that were part of this natural world’s vocabulary, for me, a negative step. Maybe, I also feel that they have attempted to wipe out part of my childhood and my on-going attitudes to life and living? Sadly, statistics have been produced to show the decline in the use of the removed words.  

Yes, we need to be conversant with technology and its’ vocabulary. But, for me, kicking the natural history aspects of life into touch surreptitiously through removal of their vocabulary does nothing to assist with a healthy, balanced attitude for our children.  An over-reaction on my part some will say, but as so many varieties and species are, in fact, struggling to survive, why add to this by removing words for species that are still around to provide part of the backdrop to our lives if we care to set foot out of the towns and cities?  Rant over; needless to say, I did sign the petition going round objecting to the removal of these words.

I began this post following a friend, Sarah’s, sharing with me a list of words which went out of vogue many, many ago. Who knows, they make an appearance/re-appearance in the OED at a future update. As I love playing with words, I have used several to write the following sentence –

We have a kakistocracy led by a snollygoster, an ultracrepidarian which is leading to many grumbletonians ……..

I am guessing that even though you don’t know the actual meaning of the words that I have used that you could have a damn good stab at knowing the subject matter! If not, do click through for an explanatory link!  For me, as I have run out of words that I find describe the current situation adequately, these revisited ones that have long slipped out of usage serve the purpose very well.  

If you struggle with standing up for yourself in any way, do get in touch – we can work either face to face or over the phone/by Skype.  I also have available a download to help you to improve your self-confidence and ability to retain your control in situations that you may find challenging.

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Comments

A well written piece which I really enjoyed reading. Thanks for putting in the time and effort to write and record. R

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