The Power of Words
It’s a beautiful sunny Sunday and I am on the train travelling into London to spend the day with my family. The train we are on is busy and many people are standing, there seems to be a football match on, as people are wearing blue football shirts. As we pull away from one of the stops I notice a boy aged about 14 years old and a man in his 40s, get into the train. I notice them as the boy is patting down his pockets and appears to be searching for something and the man is talking in a loud voice to him. They look similar and I make an assumption they are father and son. The dad is frowning and says to the boy, “ you better find it or how will I explain it to the ticket man”. The boy is frantically patting his pockets and looking down away from his dad. The dad looks more and more frustrated and says in a loud voice, “ you were so bloody insistent on holding onto it yourself, weren't you, you dickhead”. The boy moves a little further away from his dad, he is looking down and looks angry, possibly frustrated - he says nothing. He won't look at his dad, half turns away from him and continues to look down, the muscle in his jaw moving.The encounter is over in seconds and for the rest of the journey they say nothing. Any closeness they might normally have is gone, any chatter about the excitement of the forth coming game is absent. Just a child looking sullen and a father looking angry. I am not here to judge, of course I will because that's human nature. I will make assumptions about their relationship, his parenting skills, what happens next. I don't want to but I will, even if I don't do it consciously. I am fully aware there is probably more going on, I don't know either of their stories. It's the words that interest me and the impact they have now and possibly in the future. I am guessing this is an emotionally driven conversation sparked by anger and frustration of the loss of the ticket. There will be values and beliefs mixed up in all of this, for both of them I am sure and what I have seen is just a glimpse of what is really going on. It's the impact of those words - “dickhead”. The reaction from the boy is like a slap to the face, a moving away from his dad, a look of hurt. Please don't get me wrong I don't know anymore than I have seen. What I do know is the impact words can have. The effect of words can be amazing, empowering, encouraging. On the other side they can leave you angry, devastated, confused. If you give someone a label for long enough they will believe it. Again I am making no assumption this is typical behaviour or typical use of the word. We often criticise kids for not listening or doing things wrong. We are quick to let our emotions spill over into frustration or anger. We are also quick to label when they lose or break things. Of course it's important to explain the value of items and encourage responsibility and yes sometimes it's more frustrating than others. As the “grown up”, it's our responsibility to be self aware, to recognise when we are being driven by emotions and to perhaps, for a moment, stop the words we want to say spilling out and maybe walk away or take our own timeout. It is so easy to say something you might later regret, perhaps you can relate to this. WhenI am emotionally driven I say things I don't mean. When I see the hurt it can cause I am immediately remorseful. Be mindful of what you say, how you are feeling and also the impact of words you use. If you tell me often enough I am stupid, I will believe you, if you tell me often enough how brilliant I am, I will believe you. Words are powerful, use them wisely.