During the Vietnam War era, a high school English teacher had a classroom of students that constantly belittled one another. One cruel comment after another was heard when students could talk. The teacher grew tired of the negativity. So tired, in fact, that one day after a particularly bad bout of negative remarks, he stopped the lesson and let them know the comments needed to stop. He told his students “We need to lift each other up, not tear each other down.”
He changed the lesson for the day. He gave each student one blank sheet and told them to write their names across the top. He asked each student to grab a pen or pencil and go around the room and write on each student’s paper something positive or inspiring about that person. It took some time, but the students did it.
After that exercise the class settled down and fewer negative comments were heard. It wasn’t long afterwards that that class graduated and moved on. Some students were drafted and went overseas to fight. Others went on to college or work. Sadly, One of the students from the class was drafted , sent to Vietnam and died in battle.
At the funeral, many nice things were said about the young man killed in action, but one eulogists commented about a piece of paper found folded in his shirt pocket. It on it were written kind words and compliments. At the grave site people wondered about that piece of paper and its origins. Without hesitation, three other former students said they knew exactly where it came from and pulled their paper from their pockets and wallets and explained the exercise the teacher had done.
Maybe it’s the stuff of urban legend, but today’s world, I like to think this can happen. People need to hear something positive right now, if not positive then funny or inspiring. Words are way to boost people in positive way to lift their spirits. Words are simple ways we can give back to our community, online or otherwise.
Speak with good intent, not evil impulse
More specifically to speak with a “good intent” to help uplift our world in a small way. Today’s media makes is so easy to send an impulsive nasty comment, picture or video when we’re angry, hurt, or fearful, while hiding behind a computer screen miles away or on the phone.
Sometimes the best action before responding or writing is to pause before actually saying or writing something. Steve Covey, an internationally recognized leadership authority and organizational consultant, used the phrase “the gap between stimulus and response.” In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he explains, “Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.” We can choose our response to a given stimulus (statement or circumstance). This is also part of what’s called Emotional Intelligence.
During that pause I can ask myself, what is it I’m trying to achieve with my response? If my reaction is to cause something negative, I need to rethink my response. If my response is to add information missing or to present truth supported with facts then I will proceed. The pause helps me to be more effective. The pause could last a while. It could be five minutes or five years. It depends on the circumstance with me.
During that pause I can ask myself, what is it I’m trying to achieve with my response?
To help with my response, I found this acronym of questions to help me formulate a response. The acronym is called THINK.
- T — is it True?
- H — is it Helpful?
- I — is it Inspiring or funny?
- N — is it Necessary?
- K — is it Kind?
Is it True?
Three things about the truth.
First, am I putting forth the best response? Our emotional response of pride, fear, jealousy, revenge, suspicion, anger and hatred that rise up from what we read or hear can make it easy to respond with negativity. It’s quick and easy to spread rumors, false information, and meanness these days on the internet. One click of a button and thousands more viewers can see it, as well.
Two, am I being true to myself? Our need to be heard and understood of our needs and desires are also the truth. Assertiveness in words is not bad. It let’s others know our needs. When we stay quiet and not say tell the other when something said or some person’s action bother’s us or when we disagree with someone else, there are times when we need to speak up for ourselves. Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming passive until we can’t take it anymore and we explode with negativity.
Three, am I using Objective language. Objective language means your statement uses facts found from reliable sources and your statement avoids use of negative, positive or derogatory words in your statement. Bring the truth, the facts, the data to back your statement and avoid coloring your language with adjectives or opinions. People crave the truth.
“Good words anoint us, and ill do unjoint us.”Romanian Proverb
Is it Helpful?
Your response to something written, is it helpful to those reading it? Are you offering your experience, knowledge, or links to help others gain valuable information or alleviate anxieties? Almost like being a teacher, we can share our knowledge or experience in a way that brings people together and encourages others to share their knowledge or experience.
Is it Inspiring or funny?
People like to be inspired. We all need motivation to act sometimes, especially when we’re on our own. What constitutes inspiration will differ among readers. But, if something inspires you, chances are it might inspire someone else.
Reading something funny can relax my nerves or raise my distress when I see in print. Your inspired to write or say something you believe is funny. It might be worth it to reflect before you speak or write.
If your not funny, maybe it would be better to, just share something funny that you think will help people relax.
“I tell people, the only time people laugh at something I say is when I’m serious.”
My brother-in-law isn’t funny himself, but he shares with me things he finds daily online. I look forward each morning to his posts. It’s like reading the comics in the morning. It brightens my day.
As I write this, I just read someone on social media asking for some funny memes to cheer her up. Not far down from that post, another person is asking for quotes that inspire. Humorous words, pictures and video can be an incredible source for better mental, spiritual, and physical health.
Is it Necessary?
Is it necessary to write or say something catty, snarky, or mean just because the other person hurt your feelings?
Is it necessary to distribute unverified information, conspiracy theories, or your opinions. Worse, is it necessary to purposely start a thread you know will raise readers’ dander, blood pressure, and heart rate and cause dissension and argument among readers.
Ask yourself how necessary it it to say something that you might regret later or might fulfill some retribution you might feel entitled to?
Necessary means providing information, all around humor, uplifting words or memes. Does what you write support these?
Is it Kind?
Responses to what someone writes can lift a person’s spirit, help them feel better about a situation or themselves, and encourage the readers to grow in social, emotional and cognitive intelligence. Kindness leads the way in this regard. Your words, even in the most heated argument can help calm a situation, bring peace to people’s minds, and yes, even joy to their hearts.
So think about your response when you hear or read something that get’s your feelings flowing. Use that pause, that time between when you took in the information and when you are ready to respond. Think of the word THINK. Is what you are about to say True, Helpful, Inspiring or funny, Necessary, or Kind? If it isn’t you may think about altering your response in a way that truly enhances the conversation toward Peace, Joy or Love.
One last thought, sometimes the best response is no response. That by itself makes a statement. I’d rather not add negativity or worse an evil thought to the conversation because I disagree with what is said. With me, this happens half the time.
My Own Story
That story I told you about about the Vietnam-era English teacher. Well, as an English teacher, I did the same paper exercise in my classes around Christmas time each year. I told students they were going to give each other a gift this Holiday season, the gift of words. I instructed them to write something positive or uplifting about each student in the class.
I gave each student a blank paper. I asked them to print their name at the top. Then, I gave them 10 minutes to go around the room and write something positive or inspiring about each student. Each class wrote something positive for each student in the class, with some classes setting up a paper for me.
Years later former students still come up to me and pull that piece of paper from that day out of their purse or wallet. “I still have it,” they say.
Words have power even years later. Let’s choose our words well.
Peace, Love, Joy