The Importance of the Words We Speak

The way that we express ourselves can have an impact. However, we might not be aware of how impactful our words can be on another’s feelings. In our culture today, with options for sharing our thoughts or opinions with the world quickly, we might dismiss the power of our words. 

The Stigma of Recovery

While in recovery, we can feel vulnerable to the negative opinions of those around us. Some people may stigmatize those in recovery. They might have a poor understanding of the disease of addiction. Others may not realize the underlying issues contributing to addiction. These negative opinions create a “stigma” against those in recovery from addiction or mental health issues.

Living up to Our Values

While we cannot control what others say or do, we can control how we respond to them. We can also control what we say to help reduce the stigma of addiction and mental illness. Too often, people get caught up in defending their opinions that they lose a sense of decency. We can ignore those choosing to perpetuate harmful stereotypes and beliefs. Rather than sink to the levels of those bringing us down, we can rise to the task of acting by our values.  

Words Can Do Harm

During an episode of “Which Way?” with Fire Mountain’s executive director Shari Simmons, author Tony Garcia talks about the importance of our words. We are taught as children that our words cannot harm others. Most of us are aware of the phrase, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” However, while this phrase is intended to help us move past harmful words from others, does the phrase indirectly teach us that what we say does not hurt others? Does this lesson also unintentionally teach us that we should not feel hurt by the words of others?

When supporting one another during recovery, whether we are family members, parents, or alumni, we can keep in mind some ideas while sharing with others. When we are mindful of the words we use and the tips we give to others, we can create a healthy, supportive community in recovery.

5 Questions to Ask Before Sharing

Shari Simmons discusses five questions to consider before posting to social media. These five questions can also guide us when sharing experiences with others or offering information during support group meetings. They can also help us when we are struggling with our loved ones during their recovery to ensure that we communicate with empathy.

  1. Is what I’m saying truthful?
    • We might need to fact-check ourselves before offering advice or suggestions.
    • We also need to consider if we are honest when sharing or masking painful truths to avoid shame.
  2. Is it helpful?
    • When offering tips or guidance, we should consider the context of the other person’s issues.
    • Sometimes, we might share ideas to offer something when we feel expected to have the answers.
    • If we do not know how to respond, be truthful and say, “I don’t know, but I’m willing to help find out.”
  3. Is it informative?
    • Sharing our experiences and emotions with others can be informative!
    • When we share with honesty, we can inform others that they are not alone.
    • Sharing can also offer informative ideas on how to solve similar issues.
  4. Is it necessary?
    • When we speak just to fill a void of silence, what we say might not be necessary at all.
    • Learn to be comfortable with not speaking during pauses and silences.
    • We can use these times as opportunities to reflect upon what the other person has shared or how things relate to our experiences.
  5. Is it kind? 
    • Most importantly, be kind!
    • If our words only serve to hurt another person’s feelings, we can hold back our judgments.
    • Kindness is the cornerstone of empathetic communication.

The Value of the Apology

Sometimes, we unintentionally hurt another person’s feelings. Perhaps, we share something that triggers their emotions. Many people attempt to stand by their words during times like these by saying things like, “You need to stop being so sensitive; I didn’t mean to hurt you.” If what we have said hurts or triggers another, we do not decide that they should not feel hurt. Communicating with kindness includes how we handle our mistakes. We can apologize, be mindful of our words in the future, and move on.

As you continue your recovery journey or support a loved one during theirs, you might meet other individuals struggling to express themselves. Encourage them to speak up by meeting them with kind words and an empathetic heart. Consider a new axiom to share with others: “Sticks and stones can break your bones, and words can also hurt you.

The words we use when discussing recovery with others can have an impact on their feelings. We might unintentionally trigger strong emotions. Other times, we might share too much or share things just to fill voids in conversation that offer less value than the gift of silence. By considering what we say when supporting others in recovery, or other families, we can create a helpful, empathetic community based on mutual support. Ask yourself if what you are saying is truthful, helpful, informative, necessary, and kind. As Shari Simmons discusses during “Which Way?” the words we speak have an impact. Make the impact a positive one! If you or your child continue to struggle after treatment or experience a relapse, Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center in the Colorado Rockies is here to offer support. Call us today at (303) 443-3343. We’ve got your back, always, and are here to help your family’s fire burn brightest!

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