Let’s Admit It: Our Words and Actions Impact Others

JUST WHAT DO I MEAN?

The featured image above holds the answer to this question. The word cloud contains many emotions experienced by those confronted with negative reactions. Perhaps in the form of words or even by threatened actions. Reading the emotions tells us what our words and actions may do to another.

Will Muschamp during his tenure at University of Florida
Will Muschamp during his tenure at University of Florida

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Let’s see how that works. Look at the image of Will Muschamp during his tenure as head football coach at the University of Florida.

The score of this game held Muschamp’s future. Muschamp’s facial expression defines his anger. And it’s not hard to see the object of his scorn.

WHY AM I WRITING ABOUT THIS?

We’ll get to that in a minute. First, another example I saw while watching an NCAA football game a couple of weeks ago. What I saw has stayed with me as it brought back memories of a painful childhood.

I searched online football news for a photo perhaps taken by a reporter or TV crew, but no luck. You’ll have to use your imaginations to bring the image to mind.

One of the two teams playing made a touchdown, and as usual, there was much celebration. As the offensive players made it to the sidelines, the offensive line coach was waiting. He expressed heated displeasure with his players. I couldn’t understand why.

As the young collegiate players took seats, the coach visibly berated them. His facial expressions, like those of Will Muschamp, revealed such anger it was frightening. His index finger did its share of chest jabbing. If faceguards had not been in place, I daresay he may have done more. Despite the touchdown, it seems some of his players had made a mistake in carrying out the play. The touchdown was forgotten in favor of berating his players.

As a child exposed to similar abuses, I looked on as these young men shrank on the TV screen. Still in full uniform and pads, their shoulders slumped and theirs heads hung low. They were experiencing many of the emotions in the word cloud above. I felt bad for them all, including the coach for his behavior.

IT’S NOT JUST IN SPORTS

I’m writing about this topic because it’s evident in all phases of our world. Today bullying runs rampant in so many places–the workplace, schoolroom, community activities, and organizations. Many relationships suffer the effects of bullying.

If we take a look around our daily lives, a short list becomes clear. We find it in professional workplaces, employer to employee, friendships, and among family members.

Take a look at why this happens. Usually it happens when a sense of competition, hierarchy, power, or control gets out of hand. Even in our community of writers, editors, coaches, and teachers it can happen.

How can this be you might ask? Among writers and those who support them or direct their paths?

I recently met with a writing coach. She requested I send the first ten pages of my manuscript for her review. Not to critique or edit, simply review. Despite knowing this, my nerves jangled as I headed toward the appointment. Rooted in my mother’s persistent negative reactions toward me, I anticipated a negative response.

Imagine my relief when the coach began our meeting with the words, “You’re a good writer.” Of course, there were topics addressed which needed work and I knew there would be. But she began our meeting on a positive note. It made all the difference in how I left the meeting.

A FEW THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • When critiquing another’s writing, do you jump on the most negative element in feedback? Or do you lead first with something positive?
  • When commenting on a blog post, do you immediately point out a grammatical error or an incorrect fact? Or do you first offer appreciation for the writer’s effort and time in posting?
  • When participating in a Google Hangout or Skype conversation, do you put others down? Or do you ignore whatever irritates you in a more private, less offensive way later?
  • Do you choose public forum vs. privacy to clear the air with a fellow writer, editor, coach, or teacher?
  • As adults, we no longer see the need to raise hands to speak. Yet, there is another way to avoid talking over each other and being rude. Be patient and wait for a break in the conversation and then speak. No reason to step on others’ toes and/or feelings.

This short list is only five examples of ways we can watch our own behavior. Sometimes, as the irate football coach did, we react too fast. In so doing, we reduce the other party to any of the several emotions in our word cloud. And we cast ourselves in the role of an abuser or bully.

Bullying isn’t found only among our children and youth. Adults have a handle on bullying too. It may be a carryover from a dysfunctional childhood. Perhaps a lack of self-respect from a feeling of unworthiness. Even jealousy plays a large role. As adults, we must set the example for children and youth.

Let’s try to make a difference by remembering these words:

“Words are containers for power. You choose what kind of
power they carry.”

~Joyce Meyer

9 thoughts on “Let’s Admit It: Our Words and Actions Impact Others

  1. My comment is a takeoff on Sharon’s. From time to time an educational psychologist visited our college for cooperative learning seminars. His formula: Use the “sandwich” approach in giving critique/criticism. Point out something positive, then a suggestion for improvement in the middle, and third, another positive. Criticism sound louder in our ears than does praise – hence the “cushion.” By the way, the positive comments must be true and genuine; otherwise, the speaker comes across as fake.
    Your wise suggestions work everywhere: the classroom, with friends, in a marriage. Watch your words – a timely reminder, Sherry.

    1. Marian, I love a good sandwich and this one truly is one of the best! I’m jotting this down and keeping it nearby when I know I’m going to be in a position to use it. Like our women’s group at church! So glad to have you drop by and have been thinking of you and your recent loss.

  2. Thank you Sherrey for this powerful, important message and reminder. Just this morning my daughter and I chewed on the topic of bullying, which happens even in the best schools with a firm policy of not allowing it. Despite all the right efforts, it seeps in through the cracks.
    One of the most important things I’ve ever done was to join Toastmasters in 1980. In this organization, members learn from each other to become more organized, effective and polished presenters. Part of the process is to evaluate each other’s speeches. The Toastmaster formula is to point out two strengths for each “opportunity for improvement.” I’ve always remembered that lesson, and use it as a ground rule for writing groups. But … it’s not always easy to remember in every day life.
    You are taking this concept to the next level — non-verbal cues. Oh my! What an enormous and exciting challenge.

    1. Bullying seems to have an insidious way of seeping through the cracks, doesn’t it? Love the old Toastmaster rule of strengths and “opportunity for improvement.” In everyday life, it becomes a little more difficult than in the organized arena of a Toastmaster’s meeting. 🙂 Non-verbal language can be and is so painful. And it’s awfully difficult for us to realize we’ve used it!

      1. Another aspect of the challenge is that what words or gestures that seem neutral or supportive to me may unwittingly poke a stranger’s button all the way in. I’ve come to believe that if I had good intentions and did the best I knew how and it goes south, life goes one.

  3. I had to learn this lesson the hard way several times. I think grad school instilled in me the need to critique and the idea that I was doing someone a favor if I did so. Over time, I learned to start with the positive and be gentle with criticism. It helps to have been hurt a few times myself by the comments of others. Gave me more empathy.
    That photo of your mother is riveting. I don’t think I can recall any photo of my mother being angry.

    1. Learning to begin with the positive is the hardest part of becoming a master at critiquing and/or reviewing something for another person. I am so glad you can’t remember your mother being angry. The photo of my mother above brings back some tough memories, but our last year together was a time I’ve give thanks for daily.

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