Speak with purpose

When we focus on bringing purpose to our speech, we bring healing and meaning to our relationships, our communities, and the world.Speaking with Purpose, Not Impulse means entering deeply into the root causes and motivations that cause us to wield our words in impulsive, hurtful, and even destructive ways. It is the practice of bringing kinder and more conscious intention not only to the ways in which we interact with others but to ourselves too. So many of us do our best to speak meaningfully to others, but we fail to show this kindness and intentionality to ourselves, instead speaking critical and reactive words. Speaking with purpose means diving into our beings, locating the harsh words that reside there, and approaching them with a spirit of curiosity and compassion. It is about speaking with a desire to bring meaning to our speech and to serve others with our words.

We speak without purpose because we are immersed in a culture that encourages us to speak loudly, to seek more, to brand our lives, and to brandish our opinions like weapons. We live in a social media era that values speed, competition, and instant gratification. In the context of these cultural values, we require real intentionality to become human beings who speak meaningful words. This course offers practices that help us develop this consciousness around our words.

There are also personal reasons for why we speak from impulse. For example, family can hold enormous influence over how we speak to others and ourselves. If we were raised in an environment where family members spoke over one another, we may struggle with conscious listening. If we were encouraged to remain silent, we may struggle with making our purpose known. Our personal witness to the behaviors around words in our childhood environments has the power to shape how we speak to ourselves and others throughout our lives.

Other causes can include insecurity, unresolved emotions, and unconsciousness. Insecurity can make us speak critically to ourselves, alienating us from purpose. When we feel insecure, we might use words to dominate others in an attempt to appear smart or powerful. This insecurity can also manifest as shouting, interrupting, or neediness to turn conversations toward ourselves.

When we carry unresolved emotions, we may move quickly into anger, self-pity, contempt, or deflection. This leads to acting and speaking impulsively. Strong, unconscious emotions activate self-protective stress hormones, which may drive us to react in the heat of the moment. We lose perspective and distance ourselves from our innermost selves. When we look back on our behavior, we may feel shame, which can lead to negative self-talk. Unresolved emotions have the power to create a cycle of impulsive, negative speech.

Unconsciousness is the umbrella over so many of the reasons we speak without purpose. We may think of unconsciousness as another word for impulsivity. Whether we have a habit of interrupting or live with a destructive inner critic, unconsciousness is present. We don’t realize what’s happening, and when we live in this state of unawareness, we have little hope to find purpose. It is a valuable and necessary challenge to step back and observe ourselves and to meaningfully direct our energy toward listening to and serving others.

It is important to speak with purpose because words have power. The great poet Maya Angelou said, “Words are things.” If words are indeed things, then they are things that can be used for better or worse. Words can be used as weapons, or they can be used as balms. Words can harm and heal. It is our choice how we use them. Words do not control us. We are in the driver’s seat. It may seem easy to dismiss the profound power of words with tired phrases like, “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But words do hurt. This phrase came from a time when as a society we shunned vulnerability. In many ways, we still do this, however, we are also collectively coming to consciousness about the need for vulnerability in healing as well as the enormous role verbal abuse plays in causing childhood trauma as well as trauma in relationship. Words have the power to affirm us, to turn us toward love, compassion, and creativity. This course is about developing the tools to regularly harness the power of words for growth and good in our own lives and the lives of others. The first step toward speaking with purpose is to start developing consciousness around our language and listening. It is very easy to move through life without ever pausing to notice the quality of our words and thoughts, especially when our egos hold onto fixed ideas of who we are — i.e., someone who never interrupts or utters an unkind word. Often it is those of us who cling to such ideas who find, once we begin consciousness work, that we do in fact have a tendency to interrupt or regularly speak unkind words to ourselves. In order to begin speaking with purpose, we must be willing to step outside of ourselves, pause, and witness. This involves not reacting to the incessant chatter in our minds and instead observe. This is the vantage point we need in order to become conscious to the negative behaviors and patterns in our words. It is a beautiful process of learning and renewal.

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