How to Use Your Words to Build Bridges Rather Than Fear
The core way we communicate with others is with words. Most of us were taught as kids to think before we speak. And to speak respectfully to people in authority, our “elders,” and people we don’t know.
It is a way of building bridges, especially with people we don’t know. Approaching people we don’t know, or being approached by someone we don’t know, can trigger fear. When there is a sufficient level of understanding the fear fades.
In today’s world speaking with respect seems to be disappearing. It’s like being respectful is the same as being “PC” (politically correct). And if you are PC you aren’t being your authentic self.
Many are familiar with the quote: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
For years I took this statement to literally mean treat others as I would want to be treated, using the words that make sense to me.
When I became a teacher I learned that words don’t have the same meaning for everyone.
I learned multiple ways of teaching math concepts, such as fractions. For some of my students, words were enough. For others it was important to have physical objects for them to move around. For me a good drawing was often sufficient.
If I were to follow the Golden Rule literally I would have only used drawings (my preference) to teach fractions. And there probably would have been several students who weren’t able to understand how 2 halves can make a whole.
My sister shared a phrase with me that’s actually better for what we need to do: Treat others as they would want to be treated.
Now, this doesn’t mean treating them according to general stereotypes. It means taking the time to listen so you can use words in a way they can understand.
This also doesn’t mean treating them as if they were idiots or deliberately being “ornery” when they obviously don’t understand your words the way you intend them to be heard.
Many years ago I learned about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) based on Carl Jung’s psychology. This gave me a clearer understanding of the differences between introverts and extroverts, between thinkers and feelers.
Each of the sixteen types perceives the world differently and needs a different kind of explanation to “get it.” Some need lots of detail. Some need an overview.
Neither is right.
Neither is wrong.
However, if you don’t recognize the underlying differences, you can’t communicate effectively.
And if you can’t communicate you go back to the default reaction of fear.
So much of the division in today’s world seems to come from this lack of communication.
You can share ideas without using hateful slang. You can learn the other person’s meanings to familiar words.
We tend to be hardest on those who appear to share our language. When we hear them speak we assume they are using the same definitions we are and just can’t understand how they could believe what they seem to.
We assume we are “talking to the choir” not realizing they don’t even know what that means. (Talking to the choir = speaking to people who hold the same values.)
Our words have the power to generate fear or peace.
I encourage you to use your words to build bridges of peace and understanding.
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