I’ve previously written about the power of words.
And all of that still holds true.
Each and every day, I’m convinced of this even more.
So be both generous and economical with your words.
Use them liberally.
Spread them around like you’re spreading joy, like you’re spreading room temperature Nutella on a warm slice of rye toast.
Smooth and velvety. Just right.
Use as many words as you need to give birth to your message.
But remember that sometimes, because we love words, we want to use too many. We want to put them all in.
We want to let them frolic with each other, likes waves crashing and summating, growing bigger with each advance.
And that clouds discourse, eating away at the beach and pulling back a million and two grains of sand only to leave a muddied pool behind, frothy and opaque.
A loss of clarity.
This was the lesson he taught me.
“That won’t work.”
Those were my words to him, sent his way casually. Almost flippantly.
He stopped what he was doing, frozen in place like a carved marble statue, his arm outstretched, his gaze meeting mine from 2 meters away – an appropriate social distance.
It was overcast, so the squinting of his eyes above his mask, was meant for me.
I repeated myself, “That won’t work.”
His brows furrowed, the flash of disdain in his eyes.
I’d struck a nerve.
In the times of The Covids, this seemed easier and easier to do. People were on edge. Frayed.
Perhaps I should have just kept my mouth shut. Said nothing and continued to contribute to the silence.
But it was too late for that.
I’d pushed the wrong button. There was no retreat. No escape.
I’d released my words into the world, and now I was responsible for the repercussions.
Action-Reaction. Newton’s Third Law.
“Don’t tell me what’ll work or not work!” he spat out. While his words had an edge, they weren’t quite hostile – yet.
Now it was my turn to freeze. What would be my next step? My next course of action? I needed to smooth things over.
In that brief moment, as the gears in my mind were churning, he continued with his action, his intense gaze still locked on mine, in open defiance of my suggestion.
And just as predicted, it failed again.
I should have known. I live the same principle. When someone tells me to do something, I do the opposite.
How many times had I been told to cut my hair? And how many times have I listened?
He tried again. The metallic rattle echoing loudly. Or maybe it just seemed that way to me. To us.
I could feel his anger smouldering like embers on fire about to surge. Things were about to get bad.
When backed into a corner, a caged beast will throw caution to the wind and attack with an unrelenting fury.
I had to find the right words to diffuse the situation. I had to make things right.
From three words to one.
And I could feel the rage subside.
The palpable tension, dissipated like the mist from a steaming cup of coffee into the ether. Vanished.
His eyebrows, finding repose again on his brow ridge, two furry caterpillars retreating from proximity.
His head tilted, a nod, acknowledging our brief encounter and the wisdom I’d shared.
As he pushed on the door he’d been pulling on, it opened with a whoosh and he disappeared inside – leaving me on the outside with the lessons in finding the right word.
Not only had he learned something that day. So had I.
We were both left better for it.