‘Thanks, bye.’ ‘Thank you.’ ‘Cheers.’ A man in front of me at the shops recently said ‘Thanking you,’ which I’ve never heard before.
My go-to is ‘Thank you! Have a good day!’ It’s cheerful, and it’s positive. I’m being kind, right?
During lockdown someone in my family died. A few days later I went out on a drive and decided to get a drive-thru coffee, as the bubble and smiley lady behind the till handed me my latte she said ‘Have a good day!’
In my mind I thought ‘Good? These days are anything but good.’ Now I know that this lady was just trying to be kind and polite but I pulled out of the drive-thru with tears streaming down my cheeks. But as I drove home I realised that I’ve said the same to hundreds if not thousands of people.
Have a good day. Just have one.
But what if the person that hears that can’t, what if this simple statement isn’t kind but a little bit careless.
A friend of mine had depression when she was younger and she told me that her mum said to her ‘Just be happy’ and it really hurt her because it wasn’t as simple as that.
We often don’t know and don’t fully understand the situations of the people around us, the people you encounter each day may be dealing with an awful lot but not show it on the surface. For a long time I had this quote as the background on my phone:
‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.’
A part of being kind is about being mindful of the words that we say to others. Even seemingly innocent statements like ‘Have a good day’ or ‘Be happy’ can cause pain.
I now say ‘I hope that you have a good day today.’ That might sound like I’m saying the same thing as before but in saying ‘I hope’ I’m recognising that not every day is a good day. There’s a level of care which wasn’t there before. I can hear myself when I say it, it’s not as bubbly but it’s a subtle change to the way that I interact with strangers. Are there changes that you need to make in the way that you speak to strangers, family or friends?
The reality is that there are many of us, especially at the moment, who are struggling – illness, anxiety, unemployment, disappointment, these are just a few of the things that we’re dealing with.We have to be really careful with the words we say because, without intending to, we could end up causing more harm.
Photo by Dan Burton