Bye Bye Black Word – #338

Dear World,

One of the reasons I’ve always wanted to be a writer is because I am so awed by the power of words. They can make your day, break your spirit or keep you going. They’re some of the sharpest things in the world and that’s exactly why you use them sparingly.

Yesterday, my colleague and I were called ‘incompetent‘ by our boss for working. I know, half the people reading this (assuming there are any), will think I’m not telling them the whole story. Believe me, if I was at fault today, there would be no indignant sherni*1 jabbing at her keyboard, as we speak.

For a moment there, I felt like indulging in a Priyanka Chopra moment from ‘Fashion‘, cocking my head, turning my frost-nosed stare towards her and going ‘Incompetent? Did you just call me incompetent? Competence ke baare mein tum kya jaanti ho?‘*2

But see, you don’t do that to your boss for the same reason you don’t do that to your mom. They both know which dirty linen to pull out of your messy closet. But the point of writing this post is a slightly different one.

It’s just that it was declared over a fairly negligible incident that one of us has got to be incompetent to enlist the other one’s help. And this might be the ranting of a sulking employee to those reading it (assuming again), but I came upon an important observation here.

At another place, I have faced much worse, so this was quite okay for me. But it’s my colleague’s first job. She’s still in the innocently efficient category. She hasn’t yet grown into the thick skin, we’re all eventually bred to have. To her, it was an insult to the efforts that she has been putting in with a truly commendable sincerity and honesty. And that’s when we, her seniors, decided to enlighten her on the ‘don’t take everything so seriously‘ piece of wisdom. Big mistake. Big. Huge. Almost said with the same intensity that Julia Roberts says it with, to the shop assistant in ‘Pretty Woman‘.

We should have told her it was unfair and that she should find a way to not take it.

It might have broken down someone, who isn’t built to grow the hard heart and the thick skin. It might have scarred them for life. But we don’t risk being that sensitive or vulnerable so we all get armored.

I’ve heard a lot of people term our generation as insensitive and insufferable but we’re nearly bred that way. We’re bred to expect politics (the corrupted version) everywhere we go. We’re taught to understand that everyone goes through a few bad jobs with shrieking banshees for bosses and we shouldn’t make a big deal of it. We’re told that everyone is meant to go through a few bad relationships with boyfriends/girlfriends licensed to be dysfunctional so they’re bound to give you nightmares for heartbreaks. We’re made to grow that thick skin which upsets all those who complain about no sensitivity or the value of anything left in this generation. We’re taught perspective and made to live with the motto ‘Shit happens!‘ And then we’re proud of having learned about life and its lessons the hard way.

Why is it okay to not mind our words under the covers of being ourselves with someone and speaking our hearts out? I mean, both of them are good things, but if being yourself with someone or speaking your heart out to them means hurting them, then there’s definitely a problem there. Understanding where the person is coming from and taking their bullshit, be it your boss, your partner, your friends or your kids, is the wrong thing to be learning. Dumping your bullshit on someone because you’re having a hard time is even worse; no matter who you are and what it is you’re going through.

I used to always tell one of my friends ‘fight right!‘. That was my motto to happier relationships, any kind of relationships. If you simply focus on what exactly you have a problem with and don’t whip out your daggers and shields to prepare for offense and defense, a lot of the unnecessary hurt can be avoided. Sure, you can’t always do that because you’re human and by that definition you’re licensed to make mistakes, no matter how grave. But frankly, if you don’t feel bad about hurting someone, what does it make you? And if you’re not careful enough to not lose the ones who you say matter to you, personally or professionally, then why have them around in your life to begin with?

Here’s where I remember an article shown to me once by Gen. D, I think, called ‘The Marriage Tip Only Few People Know (P.S. It Changes Everything)‘ on the Happy Wives Club.

For those who want to read that piece of brilliance, you can find it here

But I’m going to quote a passage from it for reference –

On my television screen that day sat Rosie O’Donnell on the couch that made Oprah the “queen of talk.”  Attempting to make reparations to her image, Rosie talked about the huge fight between her and iconic journalist Barbara Walters, which resulted in O’Donnell leaving the Emmy-award-winning show The View.

Oprah asked, “Do you regret that moment?”

“Yes, I do,” O’Donnell responded. She said she regretted using her words as weapons and how her out-of-control rage “scared” Walters.

What O’Donnell said next confounded even the talk-show host herself: “For me, at that moment, if I had been braver, I would have just cried and said, ‘You really hurt my feelings.’”

Clearly dumbfounded, Oprah clapped her hands as if having one of her famous aha moments and said, “That is so interesting! That you would say, ‘If I had been braver, I would have just cried.’  Because oftentimes crying is perceived as the weak thing to do.”

She then asked O’Donnell why crying would have been braver than yelling and saying hurtful words.

“Because then you’re vulnerable. Then the authentic feeling that I had, [which] was pain and hurt and rejection [would have come out].”  Instead, as she told Oprah, she put on the same armor she’d chosen to protect her since she was a child.  She shielded her vulnerability, and masked her hurt feelings, with anger

There’s also something else I want to quote because there’s so much of good learning coming to us from everywhere, if only we are willing to learn. There was a really nice movie I was watching the other day – ‘All About Steve‘. Sandra Bullock’s character, Mary Horowitz, tugs very strongly at something inside me when, stuck in the mine, she looks up and screams ‘Words, people, words. There are meaningful words, there are pointless words and then, there are words that hurt.‘ It couldn’t have been put in a simpler and more beautiful way.

We have words, we have them all, we have them in many languages, the ones we don’t know are accessible and we’re armed with the power they hold. It’s up to us to use them sensibly. It’s as simple as that.



PS – When Boyzone came up with ‘It’s only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away‘, I’m not sure they realized what they were giving away.

*1 – lioness

*2 – what do you know about competence?


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