Communication is said to be the root of all relationships. When we open ourselves up to another human being and share the details of our lives, we are binding ourselves to that person with the threads of common experiences and shared intrigues.
Most people understand that building a significant relationship based on trust requires a healthy amount of conversation. What people seem to forget is that while it requires a plethora of positive contact to build a relationship, it often takes only one negative interaction to dissolve it.
The following story illustrates why:
There was once a little boy with a bad temper.
His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, to hammer a nail in the back fence.
The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence.
Then it gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all.
He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.
The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like these. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. A verbal wound can be as bad as a physical one.”
Monday Morning Perspective
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” –Ephesians 4:29
“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care, for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or evil.” -Buddha
“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do.” –Dale Carnegie
The opportunities that we have to impact others are too numerous to count. In every functional role of our lives- whether as a supervisor, parent, spouse, friend, family member, coach, or subordinate- we are given the chance to impact others with positive, constructive words.
I’m not suggesting that developmental dialogue be avoided. Instead, it’s crucial that we approach it from a positive “I’m here to help you succeed” perspective. I was once given the analogy of the “poop sandwich”, and it’s a horrible visual image that will stay with you forever (no joke) if you mentally archive it as a technique for delivering criticism. Here’s the imagery:
- 1st piece of bread- something positive the person has done
- The “poop”- the area of concern (i.e. the reason for the conversation)
- 2nd piece of bread- something the person has done positively that affirms your confidence in their ability to succeed.
I was told that if it weren’t for the bread, the sandwich would be unbearable to wolf down. (Any disbelief that this theory came from an Army Officer?!?) If you liken that analogy to harsh words, it’s no wonder we have to dole criticism out in careful, positively reinforced segments. No one likes to be told they aren’t getting it right. But if you put some “bread” on it, perhaps it won’t be quite so unpleasant!
Remember, others only remember us as a summation of our interactions with them directly. You’re either using your words to make a positive impact or you’re using them to destroy the fabric of a healthy, hard-earned relationship.
If someone were to pay you 10 cents for every kind word you ever spoke and collect from you 5 cents for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor?
Here’s to being rich in all the ways that matter.
Have a wonderful week!
© Crystal Dyer 2012. All rights reserved.