Do You Speak Life or Death into the People Around You?
Introduction | How this term came about.
Conversations with a Counsellor friend.
Recently, I had the pleasure of catching up with a friend who works as a professional counsellor. What intrigued me during our conversation was that she spoke of her work as speaking life into others, and that she is careful not to speak ‘death’ into her clients.
What it meant to the Counsellor
Friend: … I’m very mindful not to counsel death into them. So what I say, how I portray myself, the empathy I show to them has to be non-judgemental. I make it a safe place for them to come in and share.
Me: What do you mean by speaking death into others?
Friend: Sometimes we don’t put ourselves in the person’s shoe deep enough. And we’re very quick to provide solutions of what they should do, how they can get out of their circumstances. We start telling them what they should be doing. But the client is not ready. He or she may feel judged. And that is to me like speaking ‘death’. Because, we are not showing enough empathy to even understand what their issue is. Our tongues can build others up, or they can tear them down. An unchecked fire doubles in size every minute. As counsellors we need to treat the client as equal and not speak down to them.
Have I been communicating ‘death’ to others?
Her words stuck in my mind. And I wondered, have I been unwittingly speaking ‘death’ to the people around me, rather than life?
I have a three-year-old toddler. And that means mealtimes are a minefield of potential conflicts and tension. Stop talking, eat. Don’t touch that. No choosing. Lean forward, eat over your bowl. No, no, *facepalm* noodles land on the floor.
Perhaps I overthink this issue, but have I encouraged her sufficiently? Have I recognized her efforts to scoop without spilling? Is her fairy tale talk an effort to connect with us after a full day away in childcare? I sometimes think that she gives up under all that nagging, and says, ‘Mummy, please feed me.’ Have I been too controlling and speaking more death into her than life?
Can our social needs be met by immediate family members alone? Do your conversations at home help one another to stay sane, happy and mentally strong during this season?
Have you observed that different people have different communication styles and habits? Sometimes when you think of a person, he or she is immediately associated with positive words, a good listener, constructive feedback. That is someone who speaks life into others.
Both my husband and I are currently blessed with full work from home arrangements. But at the same time, I miss my work colleagues, many of whom I rely on to bounce off ideas and gather quick feedback. Although I classify myself as an introvert, I like having a variety of people around me. Different people to turn to for different needs. There’s a colleague I’d turn to for encouragement or just to have a listening ear. Another I’d approach for concise and constructive feedback, and yet another who’s good at brainstorming new ideas and giving directives. I’d like to think these conversations at my workplace not just helps me get work done, but also produces ‘life’ and helps us fulfil our social needs.
With work colleagues, it’s easy to put up a front. Especially now when we stay home all day long, I find we need to be more mindful of our speech. For starters, we encourage each other to develop our new hobbies – cycling for him and sewing for me. Listen with interest, not judgement.
Will you build others up, or tear them down?
“The tongue has the power of life and death. – Proverbs 18:21” – Verse quoted from the Bible
World Mental Health Day, October 10, is a day where we bring attention to mental illness and its major effects on peoples’ lives worldwide. Oftentimes, we come across articles that talk about things we should not say to someone suffering from depression. And I realise that the taboo statements stem from offering up solutions before establishing proper understanding. We are dismissive of the other person’s pain and inadvertently speak death unto them.
With stress levels risen due to the uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, experts warn of effects on our mental health wellbeing.
That said, I believe we can all strive to be more mindful of our speech and words to bring life and hope and not speak ‘death’ in these times of uncertainty.
Bethesda Care Services is located at 300 Bedok North Avenue 3. Our Family Services offers professional casework and counselling services, as well as Welfare Assistance and a myriad of other services and programmes. If you are keen to join BCS as a volunteer, do contact us through our online signup form. For more information, please visit our website or our Facebook page.
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