One morning sitting in the lobby of Tenzin Hospital at Shimla, I was waiting for my turn for the eye check-up. Others were also sitting there with the same purpose. Suddenly my attention was drawn towards three middle aged persons who were discussing Indian politics. Starting normally, now their conversation had turned into a high sounding tirade against the parties they supported or liked. The people around also got exasperated. Disturbed by this, the doctor came out of his cabin and staring at the three with a disapproving look, he pointed his finger towards the white piece of paper glue-stuck to the wall. The paper had the words typed on it big and bold: “FOR BETTER LIFE SPEAK ONLY WHEN YOUR WORDS ARE BETTER THAN SILENCE.” All the three had to cut a sorry figure and they snapped their lips tight only to open after a long time when they left the hospital corridor. This is how at times people exasperate others because they don’t know the principle of three W’s and one H – what to say, when to say, where to say and how to say.
In our impulse to hold the centre stage, we throw out useless words and it becomes a rambling talk. Greek philosopher Epicetus rightly said: “Nature has given us one tongue, but two ears, so we may hear twice as much as we speak.” Instead of being more eager to say, better to be a good listener. Talking more than required makes us less communicable. By listening keenly, we understand better and talk better.
Not only is mouth sandwiched by two ears, it has also an overlooking head. Open your mouth at an appropriate time and as required by the situation. The tongue must twist and turn only after seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting. In other words think first and speak later to speak better. Here I think it pertinent to refer to an interesting and enlightening incident related to the life of our great former president Dr A P J Abul Kalam:
One evening Kalam’s mother placed a plate of subzi and a burnt roti as dinner in front of his father. The father just ate the roti and said: “Honey, I love burnt roti.” Later that night, Kalam asked his father if he really liked the burnt roti. He took Kalam in his arms and said: “A burnt roti never hurts anyone, but harsh words do!”
Undoubtedly harsh words pierce the heart like an arrow. Wounds caused by bullets or arrows can be soothed down by medication, but the wounds caused by words are difficult to be healed.
Rudyard Kipling has quipped: “I am, by calling, a dealer in words, and words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind. Not only do words infect, egotise, narcotise, and paralyse, but they enter into and colour the minutest cells of the brain.” Well intended thoughts, if expressed in harsh words, can offend the hearer. What you take as frankness can become vulgarity for others. Most of the conflicts arise not due to the difference in opinion, but due to wrong tone and choice of language. Well measured words mean that you can make friends with various types of people – be it work place or peer group or social gathering.
There goes a catchy line in Urdu. Whoever said it, said it so well. Here it goes – Khuda ko napasand hai sakhtiyan zubaan kee, is liea haddi naheen hai zubaan kee – the tongue doesn’t have bone because God dislikes the harshness of language. Tongue remains moistened because it has been made to say soft, sweet and juicy words.
The words or the language you choose to speak to people tells much about the stuff you are made from. It may raise or reduce your stature in the eyes of the people. Your tone and tenor decide whether people are going to like your company. Therefore just wait, hold your tongue!