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Behind the Heart with Chiadi Ndu: Mince those Words

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Chiadi Ndu - ProfileI met her at a wedding I attended recently. She looked gorgeous and she was extremely engaging. She had what I considered ‘content’ and her eloquence was impressive. I was really enjoying her fabulous company, as was everyone else on our table. I thought she was a very admirable person until she gleefully announced to us all “Everyone knows that I don’t take nonsense. I say how I feel to anyone. I don’t hide my own, I just say my mind (sic). I don’t mince words.” Instantly, I knew that the complimentary cards we had exchanged that day were going to be strictly for business/ professional purposes only.

When I hear statements like that, it triggers a red alert in me and I usually beat a fast retreat from people that make them. I never want to be close friends (or maintain any form of close contact for that matter) with people who just say what they feel, when they feel it and how they feel it. These kind of people usually consider it an indication of their strength, openness and honesty but I consider it arrogant, coarse, presumptuous and unkind.
I am not suggesting that one begins to conceal or distort their opinions and their points of view just to please others; all I am saying is that we must learn to pay close attention to how we say the things we must say.

Growing up, I always heard the phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me,” but over the years I have discovered it to be so untrue. Knowingly or unknowingly, most of us have been broken or at the very least badly scarred by unkind words-especially those spoken by people precious to us.

Many times I have been accused of being a people- pleaser, a coward or simply ‘playing to the gallery’ because I try to be careful about the things I say to others. Once, someone very close to me actually suggested that I may be dishonest. I struggled with that thought for a long time but I eventually came to the conclusion that I am not dishonest , I just genuinely like people. Because I hurt when people hurt, I have learnt to doctor my speech without changing its content. My goal has come to be communicating without bruising, scarring or even hurting. I try to make sure that I step down from any high horse and say what I need to say with as much thoughtfulness, kindness and care as I can. I can’t pretend that I have succeeded all the time because sometimes the truth is not only bitter but it can be unpalatable too.

Needless to say, while some people consider it niceness, others assume it’s a weakness but I know that pointing out other people’s failures and flaws does not always help them become better. Instead, carefully mincing our words with kindness, thoughtfulness and tenderness actually builds up. Unkind criticisms and harsh judgements, no matter how honest, would usually damage self- esteem, breed resentment and break brittle ‘bones.’

In this New Year, I hope that we all begin to make an effort to be builders and nurturers and not “bull-dozers” throwing our thoughts, opinions and feelings around under the guise of truthfulness.
Have a very blessed year ahead.

CHIADI NDU was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1987 but has since obtained a Masters Degree in Counselling Psychology. A Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, she runs BTH Integrated Wellness and Therapy. Email: [email protected] BTH provides premium professional counselling services with experts who understand how the mind works; offering a confidential and safe environment where our clients can work on any stressful, traumatic or simply uncomfortable issues they may be facing- ANXIETY, GRIEF, FEAR, TRAUMA, LOSS, FINANCES OR HEALTH  CHALLENGES. Website: www.bththerapy.com

14 Comments

  1. Wale

    January 14, 2016 at 8:28 am

    God bless you sweetheart!….the power of this is stretched in communicating without bruising. My immediate boss cracks expensive jokes at people which one dares not with him? There is beauty in being at peace with all men!…that act have helped save many lives…..(never a weakness)

  2. www.thelmathinks.com

    January 14, 2016 at 9:40 am

    Thank you for this madam. I think you’re an extremely empathetic person, which is a beautiful thing. But I find that nothing beats the truth. Being kind to the point where some might call you dishonest is in itself worrisome. I’m also very weary of “I tell it as it is” people (whom often turn out to be selfish, insensitive and hurtful), yet I think the bitter truth is always better than a sweet lie. I guess the key is in the “How”; how we communicate this truth. So yes, it’s important to “mince those words”.

  3. Chic

    January 14, 2016 at 9:50 am

    I love this piece… Don’t even need to say more. Passing ur msg in a subtle way but not letting it’s aim be misunderstood. Maturity of the heart!

  4. jess

    January 14, 2016 at 10:12 am

    I agree with you to some extent, but some circumstances call for saying things as they are. I must add that saying things as they are is not the same thing as using hurtful words.

    I know some people that will only respond when things are said as they are, without mincing words. There are also people that hide behind this cloak to avoid being the one to point out the truth ,not because they want to be kind, but because they fear the repercussion of stating the obvious. I believe one can point out things as they are in a diplomatic way without watering down the truth or the fact of the matter. e.g is when you have a very generous friend that hates criticism so you blame everything for their excesses except them so you don’t fall out of favour with them. I remember a case like this when i was in school and a friend of ours said ” it must be your period, people act crazy when they are on” i simply told her ” you were wrong and I think you should apologize to the other party”.

    I’v seen people gloss over the truth so much that it becomes very hard to tell the difference between that and a lie. You can say things exactly as they are without being hurtful.

    • Sunshine

      January 14, 2016 at 12:11 pm

      You, my dear are totally spot on! Yes, we must be very careful how we communicate our point, as I have learnt that when we decide to ‘tell it like it is’; the message sometimes gets lost in translation and the focus turns to you and not the other person. However, I feel the point itself will lose relevance if we are more focused on coming across as polite or kind, especially in situations where the person in question has completely crossed the line. But to each their own.

  5. Letty

    January 14, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    She made some valid points I’m a counselor too. In the Nigerian culture there is no filter and ppl say things as they are and I do find it refreshing sometimes . I think it is necessary to speak candidly it adds to the resilience of our ppl. After living in the US where everything is sugar coated ppl are so emotionally fragile and can’t handle the truth in any form. Political correctness is the norm. Every kid in school must get an award so as not to hurt their feelings. I really do miss the candid speak of nija ppl. This psychobabble of the west is often tiresome and misguided. You can be kind to people but we must speak the truth even when it’s tough just with seriousness and the right tone.

  6. Blackbeauty

    January 14, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Absolutely spot on! I don’t care much for people who belong to the ‘I speak my mind all the time. without caring whose Ox is gored’ club. In most cases, they cant take their own medicine . It never hurt anyone to apply some tact in their daily dealings with other people.
    My MIL is one such person. I wonder if she stops to think or she she just opens her mouth and allows the words pour out.
    This afternoon, she said to me that she hopes i eat lots of fruits so that the baby doesn’t have a black face like mine. Huh? I calmly asked her what was wrong with my face, she then tries to laughingly placate me by saying there’s nothing wrong she just wants the child to be fair. I said, i want my child to be as dark as me.
    This year, i have resolved to politely let her know when her statements rub me the wrong way.

  7. nunulicious

    January 14, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    ‘learning to doctor my speech without changing its content” quote of the day.

  8. Word

    January 14, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    This article was beautiful written. I have a friend that does this all the time. She’s very generous though. But she hurts people a lot with her words. And when you let her know that it’s mean she’ll say she doesn’t care and it’s the truth and everyone knows she doesn’t mince words. I really hope she changes that attitude before she’s humbled.

  9. marves

    January 14, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    From my experience when people tell me they speak their mind and say it as it is, I automatically plan a retort that is aimed at inflicting maximum pain no matter what. My own dose of ” I say my mind as it is”. I have found people use it as an excuse to be offensive. I have an aunt who delights in that phrase to no end. It was always a precursor to seriously offensive and crude statements. One could not respond before the Ancestors give one a dirty slap and say one does not have home training.
    Consideration for the feelings of others and how our words come out is important. It doesn’t matter what you say, it how you say it. Even thr truth can Come out as a lie if said carelessly. “Say it as it is” my foot. Gerrrarahere ojare.

  10. Honeycrown

    January 14, 2016 at 11:26 pm

    Nice article. I believe people should always speak their mind (with empathy) because it promotes positive communication. I speak my mind with tact in matters that concern/affect me but I’m not the type that brags about speaking my mind or carry it around like a badge of honor. I once met a noise maker who constantly bragged about how she speaks her mind and doesn’t take nonsense blah blah blah….one day she swerved to my lane and I gave her a dose of her own medicine. Her lack of reaction shocked me (Ah se ko le ra ra) because I thought it was going to be a war! It’s funny that since then, we’ve become cool friends and she barely flaunts her motto around me.

  11. beauty

    January 15, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    Please Chiadu dear, are you a libra person, cos I am and I see a lot of my character trace in your write-up

  12. Lady Sharon

    January 15, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    This is such a beautiful article… I’ve learnt that issues arise most times, not because of WHAT we say, but HOW we say it. Sometimes, a condescending tone will damage what would have been helpful words.

  13. Aisha

    January 16, 2016 at 6:45 am

    I have come to observe that a lot of people speak without being mindful about the words they choose to communicate their ideas or feelings to others with.
    We all need to realize that the other person has as much right to the space he/she occupies on this earth as we do ours; and for that alone, what we say and how we say it cannot be so important that we do not pause to seive/ filter them before delivering them to the recepients.
    Let’s try to make life a bit more manageable for others as we pray and hope they do the same for us, shall we?

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