Can Words Hurt?

Words and their meanings have the power to hurt us immensely. Although physically this may seem untrue, mentally and emotionally, words can hurt us. While individuals cannot directly be hurt physically by words, some words, if communicated in certain ways, can create negative connotations and mentally hurt someone immensely. I have experienced first hand how words can hurt, disproving this popular saying through the use of negative interpersonal communication, including Lying, Polarisation and Downward talk. Words communicated in these ways towards individuals will most likely be consumed negatively and thus create sadness and pain which can produce serious flow on effects such as depression, anxiety, anorexia and other illnesses detrimental to physical and mental health.

Lying can be defined as making an untrue statement with intent to deceive. Lying is unfortunately a very widespread form of communication, used to impress or deceive individuals and groups to believe something to either be true or untrue. There has been many instances within my personal life whereby I have experienced being lied to, and also lying myself, both with negative flow on effects that emotionally hurt both myself and those who I had lied to. When I was six years old I drew on the newly painted wall of my parents new house. When my little brother and I were confronted and asked who it was that had drawn on the wall. I lied to my father and told him it was my brother. My father then proceeded to punish my brother by sending him to bed early and taking away his favourite toy. Due to the young age of my brother he lacked in basic communication skills and thus, was unable to communicate with my father to tell him I was the one who drew on the wall, not him. The lie in the interpersonal communication between my father and I, caused me to feel guilt and pain when I saw someone else being punished for what I had done, especially because of their inability to use the same interpersonal communication I had used, only to tell the truth. Inevitably when I communicated the truth with my father, he was disappointed and this caused short-term emotional pain to all parties involved. Another example of an experience I have witnessed whereby lying has hurt someone greatly was when my friends partner had lied to them about their faithfulness. We were at a party together and after a small time apart, we starting hearing talk that my friends partner had kissed someone else. We promptly found them and asked whether or not the allegations were true. They had lied and said that nothing happened. The night ended and my friend and their partner carried on as normal. After a few months the truth arose and the partner had confessed about kissing someone else. My friend was extremely hurt by this, especially due to the fact that he was initially lied too. His sadness took a very long time to subside and after a while, he was diagnosed with adjustment disorder with depressed mood and anxiety. This shows how seriously words, and the way they are communicated can hurt.

Polarization can be defined as once neutral individuals taking sides and increasingly moving toward the
extreme on either side. With polarization, each party increasingly gets more aggressive about their stance, defending it and moving more toward the extreme side of their stance, vice versa. This can lead to people being hurt, due to things only said because polarization occurred in their debate. I witnessed an example of polarization in my personal life that evidently hurt both individuals involved. On a social networking site, two mutual friends had commented on a post about abortion. They both appeared to be neutral on the subject until one of the individuals took a side on the matter, that being abortion is wrong. The other individual rebutted the argument with their own reasoning on why abortion is right. This continued for a short while, each comment getting more and more passionate about their newly taken stance. Eventually both individuals had reached a point whereby their stance was so extreme it was hard to believe that was how they really felt. This resulted in once very good friends to move away from the subject line at hand and, due to their anger, start saying hurtful things to each other. This polarization led to derogatory name-calling, swearing and personal attacks which evidently hurt both parties, especially because they were good friends in the beginning. To this day I do not see them communicating, most likely due to the hurt the polarization caused. Another more serious flow on effect that the polarization may have caused was anorexia in one of the parties. When the hurtful things were being said, one had continuously called the other ‘fat’ and other names implying they were overweight. A while after the incident, a post was create by the individual explaining they were in hospital due to their anorexia and that it was caused by others calling them names that implying they were overweight. This may not have been fully because of the polarization event that occurred, however it evidently contributed to the hurt the individual was feeling that caused them to feel negatively toward themselves. This shows how words can hurt through the negative communication aspect of polarization.

Downward talk can be defined as talking down to someone as if they were inferior. Downward talk is often used to try and assert power dominance over someone. The communication is very negative and essentially involves putting someone down with phrases and words so they feel like they are less important than the other. The use of this within interpersonal communication has proven to be a highly hurtful way of communicating, which I have seen and experienced personally. While on a social networking site I had posted a score update about a rugby game that was being played at the time, someone who didn’t want to know the score, as he wanted to watch the game at a later time, messaged me explaining his dissatisfaction. He used downward talk to put me down and make me feel like less of a person due to my mistake. He used phrases such as ‘you are nothing’ and derogatory names such as ‘idiot’ and ‘retarded’ in an attempt to make me feel like my mistake was because of the fact that I was generally a worse person that himself. This, at the time, upset me greatly because the way he was talking to me was as if I was a horrible person, who didn’t deserve any happiness, when in reality, I had only made a simple mistake. The flow on effects of this lasted for a while, I was sad and very hurt by the way I was communicated to, which was a direct result of downward talking and thus, proving that words can hurt.

In conclusion, through specific uses of words such as polarization, lying and downward talk, words can in fact mentally and emotionally hurt individuals. The determining factor that influences the pain inflicted is the way in which people communicate. When negatively used toward or by an individual, non-physical pain will most likely be inflicted which then may lead on to much more negative flow on effects such as depression, anxiety, anorexia and other health detrimental illnesses.

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