17.15: Are our words acting as windows or as walls?
Words are indispensable tools for communicating our ideas and feelings with others. These verbal tools have become increasingly critical in our hi-tech age of phones and emails that don’t allow the non-verbal forms of communication possible in direct, personal conversations.
Our words can act as windows or as walls:
- As windows, they give others’ clear views of our thoughts and feelings, and facilitate understanding and relationship building;
- As walls, they block others’ vision of our perspective, and obfuscate sharing and harmonizing.
If we wish that our words act as windows and not as walls, we can draw from the five precious insights given by the Bhagavad-gita (17.15) for tapping the power of words: speak words that are non-agitating, truthful, pleasing, beneficial and scripturally-based. Let’s focus on the first guideline. When we speak in ways that agitate others, their emotions arise as instinctive reflexes for self-defense, and relegate their rational faculty to the background, leaving us with little or no facility for having an intelligent discussion. Soon the conversation degenerates into a shouting match or a name-calling competition; our words end as bricks in the Chinese wall that separates us.
We may wonder: do we have to suppress genuine facts or authentic concerns for the sake of pacifism? No, because the Gita also recommends that our speech be truthful. Its emphasis on non-agitating speech ensures that the form of our message doesn’t alienate others from the content of the message even before hearing and considering it.
Before starting a sensitive conversation, we can pause for gathering our devotional bearings and reminding ourselves that this situation is ultimately an arrangement of Krishna to deepen our wisdom and devotion. This spiritual reorientation will empower us to use words that break walls and build windows.