The Slow Food movement, founded in 1986, seeks to reconnect us to real enjoyment and respect as it relates to the food we eat. Instead of gobbling up fast food that is low on taste and health, sit down to meals using local, nourishing foods cooked in a thoughtful manner. Slow Food is, in fact, retro eating in a modern world. (To learn more about Slow Food, check out their website.) In this spirit, I’d like to see us focus on what is healthy and thoughtful in our personal communications, too. In response, I’m calling for a Slow Words movement, to reconnect us with a retro and arguably more civilized communication style for our modern lives.
I don’t know about you, but I feel saturated with the accusatory diatribe that seems to permeate not only the internet but also our interpersonal relationships. People seem bent on suspicion and accusation instead of true listening, understanding, empathy, and compromise. It’s as if our societal whole lost sight of behaviors that make life bearable: kindness, civility, and personal accountability. We’ve lost the ability to think first and ponder, then speak, and instead just blurt out whatever quick emotions trick us into at a given instant. But as in many things in life, thrown stones are difficult to retrieve, and accusations once made cannot be taken back (but if you’re lucky, the falsely accused can forgive). Slow Words cautions us to hold on to that stone and keep those words in check until we are sure we want to speak them, and until we are willing to see that those accusations say more about us than the accused.
As part of a Slow Words movement, let’s feel and speak with open hearts and an empathetic and forgiving view of others. Instead of allowing our own fears and suspicions to rule whatever flies out of our mouths or off our fingertips, let’s take a cue from Emily Post — American authority on etiquette who died in 1960 — who once said, “Manner is personality: the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life.” Treating others decently and with empathy and understanding (or the opposite) is a reflection on you much more than it is a reflection on the other person.
When it comes down to it, the true liars, cheats, morons and deceivers are not as common as the accusations of many seem to indicate. Mostly, we are all just people making the best choices we can given the knowledge we have at that time, and few of those choices are made with ill intent. So how can we judge someone we’ve never even seen, or have only known for a few months? Do we really think we can know who that person is, what motivates them, or what their challenges are in that short a time? Most can’t, especially if they are blinded by their own pasts and prejudices. The person called a liar and a cheat probably isn’t, the faceless forum or Facebook member called a moron probably isn’t, that, either.
Slow Words seeks to break this cycle. And it is quite simple, really. All we have to do is to stop accusing, and start listening with positive intent instead of suspicion. Think before speaking, and allow that pause to insert some sense into the conversation. Make sure your communication reflects what you really want and who you really are and if it doesn’t, then maybe keeping your mouth closed and keyboard inactive for awhile is the better choice.
I realize I am an incurable optimist and have way too much empathy and positive belief in others for my own good, but I believe if we Slow our Words down that we will all be happier, and our relationships with strangers and those close to us much improved. Slow Words can change the world. Once we start using Slow Words, real understanding, true and lasting connection, and resolution can take place.