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Don’t drink the poison!

Dear Lucy: “I have a friend who is so opinionated and is always referring to others as “idiots.” I really care about her and want to say something, but don’t know how.”
 
 Lucy Shaw

I recently read an interview of Maya Angelou in the March issue of ‘O’ Magazine. Queen Maya, as I affectionately refer to her, was asked if her humanitarian work influences her writing. She said two things that impressed me: (1) “Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.” (2) “I don’t use vulgarity, and I won’t have it around me, and no pejoratives, because those words are meant to dehumanize people. If it’s poison in a vial … and you pour the content into Bavarian crystal, it’s still poison.”  WOW! … such love and wisdom.

This week’s question made me think of the Queen’s words.

Dear Lucy: “I have a friend who is so opinionated and is always referring to others as “idiots.” I really care about her and want to say something, but don’t know how.”

Dear Reader: So let’s start with a definition. Pejorative: A disparaging, belittling, or derogatory word or expression; Used in a manner to belittle or harm the reputation of another.

The thing about pejoratives is that intention is everything. There are certainly factual definitions of most words and “idiot” can be used scientifically to define an actual mental condition. It can also be used over time with a little humor, like the series of books or videos for “Idiots” and “Dummies”. But the truth is that most of us know when a word is being used derogatorily or to belittle another. It comes through in the feeling tone. And many of us can be caught doing this about things or people we don’t know or care about and think that we are doing it innocently.

What I like about Queen Maya’s comments is that she keeps them in the first person, “me, myself and I”. First, she says, “…I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.” Second, she says that “I don’t use vulgarity, and I won’t have it around me, and no pejoratives…” So with the ‘Queen’s words, let’s see if there is an answer.

1. Being around negativity can certainly put a damper on “living the life you love to live.” Caring about your friend must mean that you want to be around her. But the sting of her remarks bothers you; so, tell her this as gently as you can. Remember, to put it in terms of what bothers you, not in terms of it being her problem. I once had a friend who liked to call and gossip. I first tried saying I couldn’t participate. She got mad, but continued to call. Every time she started to gossip, I would change the subject or say something good about the object of gossip. This person stopped the habit because she wanted to continue to talk to me. Yet another person stopped calling me because the choice to stop gossiping was too much to ask!

2. We are in charge of our atmosphere. “Queen” Maya says that we have to say “no” for ourselves. On my Facebook page, if folk use vulgarity more than once or if the word is one of those really awful ones, I immediately delete them from my friends list. Nothing personal or judgmental, just my choice to protect myself and my other friends’ atmosphere. No buttons to click in real life, so we have to make hard choices, weigh the consequences and do what we have to do.

Don’t drink the poison!

Lucy

(Lucy Shaw is a Life Coach, Spiritual Advisor, and International Speaker with over 30 years of personal and professional leadership experience. Visit her Web site at www.heartworks4u.com. You may mail your questions to heart Heartworks4U, LLC, 4646 Poplar Ave., Ste. 201, Memphis, TN., 38117; or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

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