Most of us have heard the well-known adage that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Most of us also know that this statement is completely false! It’s true—words can’t physically break a bone, but they can definitely cause pain that takes much longer to heal than a fractured ankle or a broken arm.
In fact, in addition to the words you speak, there are several other actions that can hurt those you love without causing any bodily harm. Some of these you may even be doing without intentionally meaning to. For this reason, it’s good to occasionally take inventory of the things you do and say to make sure you aren’t sending harmful signals to those you care about. Here are five things to consider when evaluating how you interact with others.
Sarcasm can send valuable—and sometimes even funny or poignant—messages to those you interact with. It is particularly effective in comedy sketches, op-ed segments on the nightly news, and specific presentations in front of an audience. When used with those closest to you, however, sarcasm can have devastating effects. Before you say something sarcastic to a loved one, make sure you aren’t using the tactic to hide a stinging comment or unkind criticism. It’s also important to recognize that the more often you use sarcasm with a spouse, child, or friend, the more difficult it can become for that person to determine whether what you are communicating is true or is something said in jest. This can jeopardize a person’s trust in you. It can also make a powerful statement about your own character, identifying you as someone who is insecure and who shames or manipulates others.
2. Passive Aggressive Behavior
Passive-aggressive behavior is a close cousin to the destructive type of sarcasm addressed above and can be equally harmful to relationships. Passive-aggressive behavior is similar to sarcasm in that it veils hostility with something else, usually some type of indirect action. These actions send messages to your loved ones that say, “I don’t care about your feelings” or, “I don’t support your choices.” The more frequently you send dismissive signals like this, the more likely you are to alienate and hurt those you care about. Giving others the silent treatment, making subtle jabs at a loved one’s imperfections, intentionally acting sullen but not explaining why, acting out of stubbornness simply to demonstrate that you disagree with someone, and deliberately failing to follow through with a promised task or chore can all be forms of passive-aggressive behavior.
3. Body Language
Body language has the power to convey both positive and negative feelings to those you care about. Your stance and other physical cues you display can intimidate others or come across as dismissive. Consider, for example, how a friend or colleague might feel if you enter a room where she is sitting at a desk and tower over her while speaking to her. Having to look up at you rather than straight at you could make her feel like a child listening to a parent. When you really want to connect with someone as you speak with her, it’s best to physically get on her level and sit face to face.
It’s also important to pay attention to what your hands do when talking with someone. Drumming your fingers on a desk can imply that you’re bored or don’t really care about what the other person is saying. In some cases, the person you’re speaking with may infer that you are drumming your fingers to deliberately demonstrate your displeasure.
4. Eye Contact
Eye contact is closely related to body language. Children, in particular, are more prone to feel safe, loved, and respected when you take the time to stop what you’re doing, look at them, and listen to them. When you don’t look them in the eyes, they often infer that you don’t care about what they are saying or, worse, that you don’t care enough about them to look at them. Similarly, a spouse is more likely to feel appreciated and valued when you look him in the eyes while talking rather than looking down at your smart phone and casually responding with a nod or an “uh-huh” every so often.
5. Being Late
Regularly showing up late to meetings may also demonstrate to others that you don’t take them seriously or care enough about them to be on time. This is even true of showing up late to casual gatherings such as lunch with a friend, yoga class with your neighbors, or Sunday dinner at your parents’ home. Every once in a while, it’s inevitable that you will be running late. If, however, you find that it’s become a pattern, make a concerted effort to leave earlier and remind yourself that it can make those you care about feel like you don’t value their time or company.
Regularly asking yourself whether or not you engage in any of the above five behaviors will give you a chance to change how you communicate with others and build stronger, more resilient relationships.
Essential Oil Tip
Sometimes, evaluating your actions in order to make a change, can be troubling—inducing guilt or regret for past behavior. Don’t let those feelings stop you from changing for the better. To help renew your spirit during such times, try creating a blend of essential oils to diffuse while meditating or getting ready for your day. I love a blend of Douglas fir, bergamot, juniper berry, myrrh, arborvitae, and thyme. Experiment with different amounts of each oil or even a combination of only a few of these oils until you find just the right blend to renew your spirit.
PS. Using essential oils to help manage your emotions is a helpful skill that can boost performance in your work and personal life. To learn more click the link below!
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