Words are vital to the expression of who you are, what you think and feel and how you relate to others. They are truly one of the most powerful building blocks of our relationships. When we talk to people, the words we choose can build walls, pedestals, bridges or fortresses. The same tools can be used for demolition if we’re not careful, so use caution when speaking to others.
While this is true of all of our conversations with anyone, nowhere is it more evident than in our own homes. The way we talk to those closest to us will shape the design and structure of our family relationships. What type of structure are you building with your family? Let’s look at some of the ways our words affect our closest loved ones.
If your words are harsh or critical, you are building a wall between you and the people placed in your life for you to love and nurture. Every time your words cut into someone you are, in effect, handing them a brick to add to the wall they must build to protect themselves from verbal attacks. Over time, the walls will become higher and thicker, and create an ever-growing barrier to a good relationship.
If your words are flattering and deceitful toward another or boasting about yourself, you could be building a pedestal that will someday crumble, and you or someone you care about could fall. Healthy relationships are built on trust, and if you aren’t truthful you undermine the strength of the foundation. Genuine compliments and words of affirmation will build up your family members, but false flattery can cause disappointment. If someone tells their child, “You’re the best baseball player ever” and then they don’t make the team, it can cause bitterness. How much better it is to say something honest, like, “I really appreciate how enthusiastically you play at practice” and help the child build a great attitude about hard work.
If you often use words like, “I’m sorry,” or “Yes, I forgive you,” you are building bridges that will bring you closer to someone who was separated from you. We all have moments when we regret the words that escape from our mouths, especially when we are hungry, tired, stressed, preoccupied or angry. If we refuse to apologize, we are building a wall, but a sincere apology is the sledge hammer that will bring down the wall and the girder that strengthens the bridge between people. A bridge connects, a wall separates. Use kind words to stay connected.
If you use words like, “I will always be here for you,” or “You can count on me,” you are building a fortress where people will feel safe and secure, and where nothing can come between you and the people you love. It can be too easy to take our families for granted and to assume they know that we care for them. But in a world of constant change and increasing unrest your loved ones depend on knowing you will protect them to the best of your ability. Use reassuring statements, and be sure to keep those promises!
Your vocabulary is your toolbox – each day you choose to build the structure that supports your family or demolishes it. Use the “power tool” of your words today to build bridges and a safe place for your family to live.
Live, Work and Relate Well!