Words Can Hurt

Part 1

This week I participated in a local writer’s reading session.

First for those of you unaware of the writing, reading process, sharing writing publicly can be one of life’s most humbling moments. I compare it to walking into a room nude covered in one large bath towel. As the reading begins the towel drops revealing you in all your beauty and faults. At the end of the reading, your audience is invited to offer feedback, which you hope will be gentle and kind and above all will not overly emphasize the faults. The words chosen for feedback are important so that they don’t shatter or discourage the delicate writer’s ego (let’s face it writing is from the soul, hence we are passionate and very attached to our written words). Consequently, reading sessions are sensitive in nature as the listeners empathize with the vulnerability of being the reader yet, we also want to offer positive feedback with possible points of growth. In offering reactions at a reading, it is critical that the audience keeps their own ego in check, ensuring that their own agendas and style are not the rule of measure.

Back to the reading session, I listened to a superb short story that evoked strong imagery, characterization, point of view, personification, and powerful social message. In the end, I immediately thought this could be a dramatic short addressing abuse of women. I offered feedback asking if the writer ever thought of doing a film, dramatic short of the powerful story. Did I wait for a response? No. I kept rambling on how I thought it would be a possible idea, (you know how I can let my saleswoman side take over, ugh). I followed up with this is a good story. Good? Why did I say good? It was beyond good! Why didn’t I slow down and probe more for an answer to what the author felt? Afterward, I was thinking about the piece coming to the conclusion that I allowed my own ego to get carried away in giving feedback. Ugh, here I’m blogging about the power of words and I fell short!

My conscience provoked me to send a making amends email to my fellow writer, apologizing for not being miserly in my feedback. I provided her with more accurate and detailed praise. Plus, I asked again about the idea of the film and offered suggestions where she could get possible funding.

My takeaway lesson was that we need to be aware of the feedback we give all those in our lives. When we allow our personal agendas and use qualifiers/adjectives such as excellent, very good, good, fair, okay, bad we are following a limited A to F rating scale, which for so many triggers horrid memories of a former school experience, rooted in outdated limiting assessment.  In addition, asking questions is great in giving feedback but equally important is listening to the answers. Above all, if we fall short, (our conscience is our guide), in how we communicate I believe it is imperative that we apologize and clarify with the potentially offended parties, using our powerful communication tools, words, to build not destroy relationships. More on this in Part 2.