“They who use their tongues as swords usually slit their own throats.”

“I couldn’t stop myself,” my client said. “I just couldn’t stop myself. I know I shouldn’t have said anything. I knew it at the time. But I just couldn’t stop myself.”

There are times when our patience is shot. When we feel we’ve held back, and held back, and held back, and then we let a retort fly. Someone has pushed our limits and annoyed us beyond our breaking point, and we fire something back. I usually have been promising myself that I won’t say something I’ll regret, that I won’t open my mouth. I sometimes even physically hold my mouth shut – pinching it with my fingers – so that I don’t snap back at someone. And then I notice that I’ve said the thing I’ve sworn I wouldn’t say.

The problem is that even though my snarky reply might feel good in the moment, I generally regret that I’ve said the thing I swore I wouldn’t say. I often regret it right after, or as, I’ve said it.

There are also people who say that regretful thing often, or all the time. Who use their tongues as swords to fight – or slay – their opponents. Who come out swinging, aiming to take others down with their words.

Either way, whether it’s a slip of a usual ability to watch what you say and not say something you’ll wish you hadn’t, or it’s your modus operandi to use your words to wound, I’ve noticed that when we use our tongues as swords, we not only harm others, we harm ourselves.

In our moments of anger or frustration, we’re clearly not thinking at our best. If our fight or flight response has been triggered, our complex thought processes are not biologically accessible to us. How can we think that our knee-jerk reaction will be constructive? When we’re sword-fighting with our conversations, the words that come out often come back to hurt us. We can get caught in mistruths; we can exaggerate and oversimplify; we can judge and misjudge.

The more we can fight against our impulse to fight, and aim instead for connection and deeper understanding with the words we use, the more likely we are to have a positive outcome. When we can pause, breathe, and allow our actions and words to be guided by our cerebral cortex (responsible for complex thinking) rather than our amygdala (the origin of our fight or flight response), we are more likely to avoid slitting our own throats.

How do you resist saying things you’ll regret?
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For support in using your words for collaboration and connection, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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