I read this poem once, and I wish I could remember what it was called, or at least who wrote it. I can’t even remember how it went exactly. But the reason I bring it up is that one thing stood out, and that one thing is something I’ll never forget, something that I’ll keep in mind for the rest of my life. Whether I’m giving a speech, talking to my friend, or writing an email. It doesn’t matter. That poem had a beautiful way of saying it, and it was something to the extent of this:
Every word that comes out of your mouth is like an arrow shot through the air. You don’t know where it will land, and it could easily pierce someone’s heart.
Sometimes we say things too quickly, without bothering to think about how someone will feel. You could carelessly toss a word away, thinking nothing of it, but to someone else it might mean a great deal. Maybe you say something, thinking it’s a joke, but your friend doesn’t feel that way at all.
I’m not saying that you have to think carefully about every single word that comes out of your mouth. But just be aware that what you say might affect someone, even if you don’t think much of it.
I was taught in elementary school – and I’m sure you’ve heard it at some point in your life – the golden rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
But here’s the thing: what might not affect you might affect someone else. Maybe you wouldn’t mind if someone made a joke about the way you look or speak or act, but maybe someone else would mind. But… how the heck are you supposed to know what the other person is thinking? You can’t read minds. How do you know if what you say will make someone feel bad or not?
Obviously no one is perfect. No one expects you to be. But as you talk to people, as you talk to your friends… you notice what people’s personalities are like. Especially among people you know really well or are close to – you know if someone is more sensitive than you are, you know if someone will be able to handle the joke or not. And if you’re not sure… then maybe it’s best not to say it.
Choose your words carefully… try to anticipate where the arrow will land.
But you know something? It’s true the other way around, too. Maybe you say “hello” to someone, just to be polite, but to that person, it means a lot more than just “hello.” I know for a fact that my friends have done seemingly small favors for me, but those favors have meant a lot to me.
A birthday gift, a letter, a small handwritten note… they all mean a lot. A kind word from someone can mean a lot too.
I think you have a choice with your words: either you can shoot arrows, or you can bestow unexpected gifts. It’s up to you.