The Angelou Effect
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
I am in a very unique position.
Well, that sounded cool to say but it’s not really true. I am in the same position that many of us find ourselves at different points in our lives, within different circumstances and locations. People say things like they are sorry when someone passes away, happy for your when you win the lottery (I know that one most would consider to be a stretch) and more things like that. Someone can offer you a ride, pick-up a quart of milk for you at the store or just ask you how you’re doing on any particular day.
I bumped into my neighbor the other day and she looked tired. We stopped and had some conversation; she told me her mom who had been very ill had finally passed earlier in the week. She has been through a lot, my neighbor – she broke her shoulder in an accident at work; her husband died suddenly two years ago; her mother has been ill and in and out of hospitals for the last year. And in the midst of all things with getting her mom’s affairs in order, she had to run home and walk the dogs. When I saw how tired she was, I told her that if she wanted to leave me the keys, I would walk the dogs so she wouldn’t have another thing to worry about. I know how independent my neighbor is and I knew my offer would most likely be refused, but I did it anyway. I didn’t ask because it was “the thing that neighbors do” – I did it because I really hoped she would let someone help her for once! But even more, if she didn’t take me up on the offer, I thought maybe she would feel better, knowing that if she truly wanted to, I would be there to help her. I know she appreciated it as she smiled as she went into her door and thanked me.
That being said, I stumbled upon this quote from Maya Angelou and it made me think: Do we truly think about our words and actions and their effects?
Quantifying a feeling is almost impossible. One can say that they are feeling things at a certain level but that level would be relative to the rest of the things going on in their lives. Often, two people in a situation can’t understand why the other doesn’t “get it” – perhaps it’s because the first party doesn’t consider how the other person is made to feel.
I am surrounded by a lot of people every day – through business, family, friends and others. Communication has always been important in my life whether it has involved talking around the dinner table, writing letters to cousins who lived far away; talking daily on the phone to a grandparent who did not live with us, writing in a diary. You can communicate all you want to whatever entity you choose but a true communicator watches for the signals, takes the cues remembering that words “listen” and “silent” have the same letters in them. Being present in a conversation means you have to hear what’s being said and then pause…
Then think about your retort, your side, the words you wish to say.
No one realizes how damaging words like “just” and “kind of” can be when you speak to someone. I’ve heard one phrase over and over again throughout my life – “not really”, as in “that child was adopted so he (she) is ‘not really’ their child” or “Well, he’s not really her father – its a second marriage”. All are limiting words – they minimize situations, people and things. And for what point? If you use phrases like this, do you live the life of the person you are speaking about?
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Guess that can translate to “Think before you speak – the tongue is a very sharp instrument.”
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