Monday, February 20, 2012

Waddya Know? Words Hurt!

First, to get the right mood, check out this cartoon.

I was teased a lot as a child (I was incapable of teasing in return), and I never understood the idiot who came up with that rhyme. Words have such power - to build, to destroy, to certainly able to instigate a sleepless night. 

Sometimes I cannot believe the conversations I overhear. 

"How old is your baby?"

"A year old."

"He's so small." 

I saw the mother blush, clutching her infant, and then, stammering, attempt to explain how his low weight is not her fault. The other woman had already turned away, probably to make someone else feel good about themselves. 

Very often I cannot believe what is said to my face. It seems to be a common phenomenon with singles. 

"While you are 23 now" (this happened a few years back) "soon you'll be 30, so just take any guy and at least you'll have children." No, I kid you not. 

Every time I am in a social setting, my mind races to think back if I said anything that could be construed as hurtful. Thinking before speaking is sometimes difficult when conversation is flying back and forth, and often I am crippled with remorse for years following a ill-thought remark. 

I was explaining to my niece how "no offense" doesn't make a comment any less offensive. She caught on quickly. 
This Berenstain Bear book describes it well. Brother teases Sister all the time, despite the parents telling him to lay off, and when he in turn gets picked on by Too-Tall and his gang, he realizes how hurtful it really is. 

I heard a rabbi say it well: "Sticks and stone can break my bones, but words can really hurt me."  

"I'm just being honest . . . " 

"Honesty" does not equal "truth." Honesty is simply professing one's (often biased) thoughts - and one's opinions, unless favorable, do not have to be offered unless requested. And even then, honesty is not so necessary.

"Please, be honest, what do you think of this dress? I bought it, and it's final sale. I thought that I love it, but I'm not sure if it is flattering."

Think before you answer. Real hard. Would it really be so terrible if her ego is becalmed by a simple few words? If the answer is "Well . . . " that is enough to ruin her week, while the speaker goes home and doesn't think on it again. 

Embarrassing someone is like murder. So think, "Would they blush if I said it? Would they second-guess themselves?"

"It's lovely."


tesyaa said...


Anyway, here's a highly related post.

Princess Lea said...

(Wince). That was painful.

Sometimes, in the end, it is better just to stay quiet. I have to work on that.

Ish Yehudi said...

While I think that in principle sensitivity is important, I often disagree about blanket-sensitivity when it comes to dating/relationships, for one key reason: fear.

I know a lot of guys who are conditioned to be nice, and have no idea how to deal with a woman when she is feeling emotional. I know lots of guys who are actually afraid of a woman becoming emotional.

Generally, when a woman is emotionally flat-lined, she feels no attraction, so guys who are always "nice" or perpetually afraid of a woman's emotions (i.e. doing/saying anything that could possibly be interpreted as the least bit upsetting) can seem really boring (and a pushover).

Context is really important, and so is calibrating/interpolating for the situation. Often, when a woman is asking an opinion she may really want to feel reassured and desirable. On the other hand, if a guy can't tease a woman (in a playful, well-meaning, non-hurtful way) it can flat-line a potential connection.

Princess Lea said...

I wasn't getting into couple-ness, but I don't like being teased. If it is from my significant other, it wouldn't make it any better.

But what is the blanket assumption that all women are a bundle of potentially explosive emotions? All the men I know are equally, if not more, emotional than women. Men also have pressure points, and areas that cannot be made fun of.