Home » Letters » Chat On Harsh Speech

Question: I speak harshly when I’m not in a good mood or am angry.  An alternative is to be silent. What do you think?

Answer: Hmmm… yes, but we should train ourselves to be more mindful, to not let moodiness or anger affect how we communicate (or not communicate). Yes, speaking less or not at all when knowing one’s words might be harsh is good. Mindfulness helps us to more quickly recover from the bad mood too, to be able to communicate calmly.

Question: Isn’t the perception of harsh speech dependent on both parties?

Answer: Yes, but when one is mindful that one’s choice of volume and words have ill effects, one should make a point to change. The essential harshness is always in the mind and intention of the speaker. It is possible to speak harshly while doing so calmly!

Question: Giving the slient treatment can be ‘harsh’ to them.  Only the ‘speaker’ knows if the words spoken or not is intended to be harsh.  The listener might interpret it as ‘harsh’ or not based on his own thinking and assumption.

Answer: If possible, we should speak to encourage others to change for the better too, out of compassion for them. Sometimes, the silent treatment is not genuinely helpful.

Question: If I feel that someone spoke harshly to me for no apparent reason,  I’ll withdraw myself.

Answer: Or you can tell the person to come back when he or she is more ready to communicate calmly. This might get on the person’s nerves though!

Question: If we are in the midst of an argument, I might start being harsh the moment I feel the other party is being harsh.

Answer: Hmmm… retailiation isn’t good. As the Buddha said, hatred cannot be ceased by hatred. Here’s a counterintuitive trick. When the person is harsh, continue speaking calmly and clearly, and at a deliberately softer volume. That person will have to pay attention, and tend to feel foolish for not being able to enrage you. And the paying of more mindful attention tends to quell his harshness too!

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