Only Words

Coming back to work can be a bad enough experience after the holidays but it has been something of a struggle today even with that expectation in mind. It was not as though I was bothered about what I was coming back to – same old problems are still there but at least they had not brought their friends with them this time so for perhaps the first time ever I have fewer emails to deal with than the Lovely Wife.

So why do I feel especially miserable? Possibly it is the low grade cold keeping me away from getting the New Year exercise programme started. Or possibly it is because it is time to take down the Christmas tree and decorations, so that the house just feels an impending lack of sparkles. Not my favourite time of year and the wet drabness of the weather is hardly a pick up.

Actually I know what the real problem is, and it is just one word. I’m not going to even say what it is because outside of the terminally boring context it would make no sense and the context is work related so even with confidentiality issues put aside you really don’t want to know. But the point is not a particular word but a word used by someone in a way that can only hurt. It is when a word knocks the stuffing out of you, drains your energy and enthusiasm and makes you want to just throw your hands in the air, mutter a mild expletive and then shuffle off grumbling into the rain, because, frankly, you cannot be bothered anymore and you know that if you did it would just ruin the rest of the day and/or you might punch the user of the ‘word’ at least figuratively on the nose.

I think some of you might know what I mean.

Sometimes it is deliberate. Sometimes people use a particular word knowing perfectly well the negative impact (immediate and lasting) that it will have. Perhaps they want to make a point, or make themselves feel better by bringing you down, or want to indicate blame. People can be surprisingly cruel.

But more often than not it is not really intended. It is careless, thoughtless use of language with no thought to the consequences. I know this because I’m a regular perpetrator of exactly this kind of abuse. I’m generally an extrovert and have a tendency to speak without thinking very much about what I am saying, or equally who I am saying it too. We all have ‘words’ that are triggers for us and sometime we know what they are and sometimes we have to find out the hard way. Sometimes I know that I have upset someone and that might give me the chance to make amends, other times it goes unnoticed by me and the problem for me is that I don’t know and therefore cannot avoid it in future, which could lead to a schism in the relationship over time. I would rather say sorry than lose a friend.

So today a word upset me and cast a tiny but effective shadow over the rest of the day. Luckily, I can hope that somewhere else in the day someone will say something to me/I will hear another word that makes me much happier, and the nastiness can be consigned to that dark area where all the crap lurks (I’m not optimistic enough to get rid of it – rubbish of this sort takes a long time to rot away to nothingness). Certainly I will try and keep the ‘down’ words from my own utterings for this year, which is about as near to a resolution that is likely to come from me…