I have learned that words are really important to me. My love language is Words of Affirmation, so this comes as no surprise. It’s important to me that words aren’t impulsive, but contracted and supportable. I don’t like arguments for this reason, and many times I’ve found myself in the middle of a conflict and have hit pause to tell my adversary to just wait for an email from me. I need to work on that.
My love affair with language came to me when I, a young girl of seven, watched Anne (of Green Gables) clutch a book of poetry to her breast and dramatically recite its verses as she wandered through a barren forest. Then when she re-enacts The Lady of Shallot in a sinking row-boat and finds herself clinging to the beam of a bridge as the handsome Gilbert Blythe watches on in glee; I realised that language promises all kinds of adventures and I was sold.
Since then I’ve been known to relish beautiful words almost as pathetically as Anne. I once broke up with a guy by quoting Austen. One time I got so enthusiastic about a paragraph of Charlotte Bronte’s finest work that I read it to my poor stranger-neighbour in the library. Whatever, I have no regrets.
Here are some areas in which language really, really, matter, and no matter what, you should exercise a filter:
- With people you love. These people deserve your best manners and tact
- With people you hate. I mean you shouldn’t hate anyone for reals, but should the occasion find its way to you, there’s even more reason for you to use your words wisely. These people don’t deserve to be the cause for bad behaviour.
- With people you work with. Regardless of your occupation or experience, the things you say have an immortal way of sticking to you in the memories of others. I once started a job and the very first thing my new supervisor said to me was “you need to respect me and respect that I just know a lot more than you do.” I don’t need to remind you how much I like being told what to do, but this was on a whole new level. I felt like she was implying that in the two hot seconds we’d known each other, she’d surmised that I would be disrespectful. I felt attacked, whether or not it was her intention.
- With your superiors, inferiors, friends, foes, strangers, the creepy guy next door, that girl who talks behind your back, your unborn children, yourself… just always. Watch your words.
This is not to say I have never made word faux pas’. So many times I’ve put my foot in my mouth and to this day, those moments are the most embarrassing instances of my entire existence. I once bad-mouthed a new friend at a sleepover AT HER HOUSE… IN MY SLEEP. If that’s any indication of how epically I’ve failed at this.