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Words can hurt, but so can silence. Once words are said, it is impossible to take them back. Of course it is possible to put a spin on them to show a different meaning than what was originally perceived. This is forever being done in politics. A politician says something that does not meet with approval by the public, so in come the PR team to clean up after him/her. The whole conversation could be changed, even outright statements can be dressed up or down to give them the needed spin and make them look better. This happens with high profile personalities or politicians, but what happens with ordinary people? They do not have PR teams to clean up after them, so depending on their personality, the relationship they have with the other party, and their ability to express themselves, would they be able to smooth out the effect of what had been said or not.
The strange thing to my way of thinking is, that people mostly give the least attention to what they say to the people closest and most dear to them. Maybe Shakespeare had it right: “Familiarity breeds contempt”. Whereas, I think, one should care more about the feelings of your dearest and nearest than those of strangers whom we deal with, with the utmost care and respect. Odd, but that is human nature I guess.
Though communication is an art, and has been turned into a science, taught with rules of do’s and don’ts, yet some people are naturals. These are blessed with the instinct, the empathy and the intelligence to feel, know and understand the people around them, the situations they are in, and how to handle them and what to say or not say, and what tone to use, and when. These are all important factors, along with the words themselves, when communicating.
I do not hold with the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words could never kill me”. No, I do believe that words can kill you. Cruel, painful words, especially from someone dear, can easily cause such hurt that it could kill your feelings, which in essence is killing part of you. On the other hand, silence could be just as deadly.
In situations where communication is needed, where a word or even a gesture of sympathy or understanding would make a world of difference, withholding such a word or gesture could be as cruel as saying something painful. Silence could cause as much damage to a relationship as some cruel words could.
Japanese children for the first six years of their schooling are taught manners. It is not religion, it is how to be polite, how to behave correctly, so that when you are a grown up you are not an animal let loose in a jungle, but a human being living in a civilized society. Why don’t we in Egypt have something similar? Why doesn’t the world at large teach its young what to say and when, what not to say and when? Why are we left with such lethal weapons as speech without being taught how to use them? When taught how to drive a car you are told that this is a weapon that has to be carefully handled, so why are we not taught that our tongues could be just as deadly? The double edged sword of speech or silence, the choice of words or lack thereof should be one of the most important subjects to be taught in schools the world over.
As it is, there have been many a war that were fought because of something said, there have been many a murder because of something said or unsaid, and there have been many a broken relationship and a broken heart because of something said or unsaid. Shouldn’t that be enough for human beings to note that learning how to speak, what to say and what not to say, and when, be a priority when teaching the young? Like the Japanese teaching manners to their young, all nations should teach their children how to communicate. For, unlike animals who depend solely on their highly developed instincts, the human animal has lost that edge and now blunders along with his lethal sword, called a tongue, killing and maiming people right and left. Those few naturals who know how to talk, are swallowed up in this sea of hurtful behavior. Though some are appreciated for their “sensitivity”, this is no guarantee that they are not hurt by others. A sad state of affairs for human kind that has reached phenomenal heights in curing the physical ailments of the body and is still unable to avoid the emotional and mental anguish inflicted by careless words or silences.