The sound of our voice conveys our age, education, intellect, physical health, energy level, current mood, and even where we have lived. We bring our full being to bear on everything we say, even in casual conversations.
This might be why our words can have such a powerful effect on others.
We can weaken or strengthen ourselves and those around us with words. In 2018, plant-bullying experiments popped up in schools across the world, demonstrating the affects of bullying plants verses complimenting them. Bullied plants repeatedly wilted after just a few days of cruel words.levitra pilule
Sometimes negative words have positive consequences. We might remember a time when someone underestimated us, and that might have lit in us the fire needed to both prove them wrong and achieve more than we ourselves expected. But most of the time negative words work just as intended: to diminish someone.
The person most affected by our own words is ourself. Our mind’s inner narration is unrelenting and repetitive. We rarely have the energy or ability to question our own self talk. When our mind says, “Get off your butt and get to the gym, you fat slob,” our body hears this and, at a cellular level, is diminished. We only absorb the “you fat slob” part because there’s nothing personal about the phrase “go to the gym.”
If we are habitually cruel to ourselves, it’s easier to be cruel to others. This is why people suffering from self loathing, like narcissists and those who have been bullied themselves, can say such mean things to others. Insecure people complain the most. Their negativity is a reflection of what’s happening in their own minds.
The alternative to cruelty and negativity is kindness and positivity. The impact of unrelenting kindness is less studied, but we know from experience it can change people as dramatically as cruelty. If a coworker says to us, “I really appreciate that your emails are always so well written,” we will internalize this and work extra hard on our next email’s prose.
More profoundly than emails, positive self talk can save our lives. Our immune systems and mental fortitude are directly linked to our beliefs. If we believe we are strong and capable of healing, our chances of recovering from diseases can improve. Our pain threshold can increase.
Of course, not every circumstance calls for compliments and kindness. Confronting injustice or abuse can require firmness, as does setting our own boundaries. But even then, we’re more likely to influence a situation by appealing to our audience’s higher selves. When we paint a picture of how great things could be if changes were made, we pave an easier path to action than when we point out exactly how badly a person is behaving.
As the Buddhists say, right action and right speech spring from right thought. But how do we convince our minds to have right thought and to be more positive?
Gratitude meditations can get us there.
We can do a gratitude meditation any time. Sit comfortably upright and count down from twenty to zero, about one count every two seconds. This will calm us down. Then we start listing the things and people and circumstances we’re grateful for. We spend a full five minutes listing as many of these as we can. Ideas may come slowly at first. Soon it accelerates as we list things major and mundane. A pleasant feeling of inner warmth will rise. Extend your sessions to fifteen, then twenty minutes over time.
When we reframe everyone and everything in terms of how they have benefited us or taught us or challenged us to grow, we understand that we are at the center of a giant circle of people and circumstances working hard to make our lives better.
Why are we at the center of so much giving? Because we are unconditionally loved by a force or forces larger than we can imagine. And if these forces love us, then we can also love ourselves.
With these realizations, the first change we experience is a reduction in our self pity. So much of our negativity and cruelty is born from self pity. We think the world is treating us badly so we hold our kindness hostage for the ransom of justice: “I’ll respect you if you respect me; other people have it way easier than me; I don’t owe anyone anything…”
Once we see ourselves as recipients in the center of a massive circle of giving – and knowing that we intrinsically are worthy of these gifts – we have an easier time generating kind, positive thoughts towards ourselves and others. Operating from a position of gratitude, recognizing that every relationship and circumstance is a gift, we can authentically use our spoken word to strengthen our circle. We can uplift our friends and family and coworkers. We can make them more productive and happier and more proud of themselves.
Our kind words and compliments are best presented in the form of persuasion. We often think about persuasion in terms of manipulating others to act for our own benefit. And in fact we have as many resources at our disposal as we have powers of persuasion and breath in our lungs. But there’s a higher purpose to persuasion.
Persuasion is best used to uplift ourselves and the people around us. Persuasion is necessary because most people are still speaking cruelly to themselves. Most don’t believe they’re worthy, capable, and fully loved. Most have hang ups about their abilities and looks. Most people need some persuading to be convinced of their strengths.
We can do the same for ourselves. When this comes from our authentic selves, our words will be well received. After years of fortifying ourselves and those around us, we will bring into reality tremendous positive change, all through the power of voice.
This post is part of a series related to ideas that came to me in recent meditations. I usually write about climate-adaptation investing and startups.