Tween Talk with Eugenia: The weight of words…

Eugenia Tachie-Menson

Have you thought of the words you use when speaking?  Do you catch yourself saying things that come out wrongly and end up marring a beautiful occasion?  Did I tell you about this one time my friend and I attended a naming ceremony where he put his foot in it?  How so, you ask?

It was after the church ceremony, which was a rather light yet revert affair; we headed to the newly named baby’s home for refreshments.  The afternoon was hot and humid, so we all made a beeline for the chilled-looking natural fruit juices to quench our flaming thirst- the music playing was beginning to lull even us adults to a drowsy state.  And, as though the DJ heard my thoughts, the music switched instantly to up tempo Afro beats – which our Nigerian neighbours call ‘juju music’ in their pidgin English.  The name tickles me so; it aptly describes the vibe of the music; when Afro beats hit you, you dance like you’re in a trance.

Whilst we were sampling the sumptuous array of Ghanaian dishes splayed before us, our hostess walks towards us, with her newly named baby, who had started letting out little cries.  We exchanged our usual pleasantries and ‘ooohed and aaahhhed’ at how cute the baby was. By now, the baby was full-on wailing…must be the loud music, I thought.  Our hostess begun to look flustered, and we all agreed the baby must be tired and be taken inside.  No sooner had our hostess turned her back did my friend say to me, indiscreetly, “I don’t like babies who cry”.  Our hostess stopped in her tracks – she must have heard that; gosh, no!  She turned around to face us; one couldn’t read her emotion as her face was expressionless, but that comment, if she heard it, wouldn’t make anyone happy.

“I heard that,”, she said, rather crisply. ´For your information, ALL babies cry; what you should rather say is you don’t like it WHEN babies cry”.  She walked off, and I tugged at my friend’s hand to let’s follow her and apologise for upsetting her.  But our hostess was walking brisker than we were; I thought to leave her then, so she could attend to her baby, who was still wailing.

Our hostess’ choice of words struck me as more empathetic and less judging in meaning, when compared to my friend’s rather thoughtless and awfully insensitive comment.  Come to think of it, all babies do cry – that’s the only way they can communicate hunger, change of diaper or fatigue.  Babies can’t and don’t talk, they cry. And usually when they do, something is wrong…so why would anyone think to say, they don’t like babies who cry?  Are there babies who don’t cry?  I doubt it.

Words seem harmless until they are strung together to form or communicate an opinion, a thought, or a message.  It behooves on the one speaking or communicating to be mindful of how their words will affect the listener.  Words are the most powerful tools you can possess- used positively, words can inspire others to give off their best.  Also, words can be used for negative means – using the wrong words have been known to end careers, start arguments and destroy lives.

You don’t want to be the one known for always saying the wrong or bad things about others or situations, do you?

Here are a few tips to make the most of the power of words:

  1. Be grateful – in my friend’s case, had he concentrated on the reason we were at the event -a celebration of naming a baby with food, drinks, music and good company he should rather have offered compliments to our hostess and gratitude for being invited.
  2. Stay positive – be the one who always has something good to say about someone who is being spoken ill of. You might be helping change the mindset of speaking negatively of others
  3. Refuse to be – Rather than stand there and listen to negative things being said about others, why don’t you change the topic entirely? And if that doesn’t work, why don’t you actually say to them you are not willing to participate and leave their company altogether?
  4. Be empathetic – if you have something unpleasant to say about someone’s behaviour for example, do find and start off with something positive about them first. It balances off.

In the end, my friend and I found our hostess and apologized profusely to her.  Lesson learnt – words carry more weight than we appreciate.

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