When do we tend to open our mouths the most without hesitation (Apart from the time we are gorging ourselves with food and drink every few minutes)? Is it when we are confident of what we’re saying (The levels of which go from high to low as we move from a relaxed personal setting to a more intimidating professional one)? Is it when we feel our egos have been challenged and we want to scathe someone with our words (Because they stated that Jack Ma has better business acumen than us)? Is it when we just want to yell at someone without any semblance of meaning or direction to what we’re saying (To get our daily dose of frustration out)? Or is it when we want our ideas to be heard (Which usually happens only when we are confident of being the brightest and most experienced in that given room)?
What determines our participation in an event? What factors does our mind consider innately before we decide to express ourselves in any situation? Why do we hoot or whistle in a crowded cinema hall during a movie, but are apprehensive about the slightest contribution in an equally crowded seminar? Why do we question others during their presentations in college, but are tongue-tied during our own? Why do we find it easier to demean someone rather than appreciate them? Why do we lash out immediately at someone for causing us the slightest irritation but behave like large iron clamps are keeping our lips together when we need to apologize for the grief we have caused? Why do we speak when we should really be listening and shut our trap when we really need to speak? Fear? Lack of confidence? Ego? Convenience? The lack of intent in pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone? Lack of care? Or even the old age civilized human’s adage of ‘chalta hai’ (big deal, it’s okay)?
How many situations do we find ourselves in where we know we can do better with our speech, but refuse to do so? There are innumerable but here are just a few examples.
- We are ready with admonishing words for our subordinates or colleagues at work (sometimes just for the heck of it because we believe it keeps them in line), but rarely with words of comfort and encouragement
- We leave our homes every morning with scathing words fired at our spouse (because we had a nightmare, woke up in a bad mood, and now need to get it out of our system), but seldom feel the need to understand her perspective and empathize
- We tussle with our family members regularly but refuse to have a calm and mature conversation (Unless the elders decide they want to distribute the family wealth)
- We speak condescendingly to the street food vendor for taking two minutes too long to prepare our sandwich, but seldom appreciate the quality of his work (despite devouring the sandwich at a rate that is always threatening to break the world record)
- We spoil our clients but don’t feel the need to speak nicely to our employees (Doling out fat paychecks will only work for so long)
- We crib endlessly to our loved ones about our problems (which could be as trivial as the cook not having shown up that day), but rarely care to ask them about their issues.
- We even glare and mumble at the pavement, when we trip (Obviously, the pavement schemed against us, changed dimension, took us by surprise, and was hell-bent on breaking our nose)
We always seem to be embroiled in our problems, our feelings, our perspective, and constantly expect support from those around us. We will yell at someone’s mistake, demand an apology, and happily put someone in a spot, especially if we feel we have been wronged. However, when we have to walk the hard miles (have the tough talks to be precise) and drag ourselves outside our comfort zone, we look the other way. We either convince ourselves that we have no reason to have a particular conversation, pretend like the situation doesn’t exist, or want to believe that we can’t do anything to help. At times our ego disallows us to do so, at times it’s the fear of facing a certain situation or backlash, and at times we just don’t care enough.
And then we rue missed chances to make amends, help someone, and boost a life, well into the future, and at times only in our fading light of life, leaving behind a trail of misery and ‘could have beens’. Ailing parents, disturbed spouses, insecure children, unappreciated employees, heartbroken friends, disgruntled business partners, and even ignored pets could use our words as much as a listening ear.
All of us listen. But how many of us hear? How many of us truly understand what we hear? And how many of us can eventually sympathize with the speaker. Good listeners are rare but then so are good speakers. And by good speakers, I do not imply oratory excellence and the ability to enthrall a crowd. But I mean the ability to touch, enthrall, and rejuvenate someone’s heart and soul.
So go have those much-needed conversations, for I can assure you that the joy and relief experienced by us and others upon doing so far outweighs our nonchalance, egos, and fear. Silence may be golden in situations, but the right speech, at the right time, delivered with earnestness and heart, is platinum.