As someone who strings words together for a living, I’m fascinated by the art of compassionate communication: writing (or speaking) in a way that makes others feel better about themselves, not worse.
Sometimes, a simple story drops into my lap, with a simple reminder about what it (really) means to express yourself with love — and why it matters, so much.
This is one of those stories.
Earlier this week, I received 2 different emails from 2 different women.
The first woman had just subscribed to my mailing list, and was delighted to be there. She was trying to locate a particular writing worksheet that I’d given out as a gift to subscribers, in the past. She was excited.
The second woman had just subscribed to my mailing list, but wanted to remove her name. She’d tried to take care of it herself, but had run into some kind of technical snag. She was frustrated.
The first woman wrote me a single email, which began with “First off, let me tell you how much I looooove what you do!” and ended with “Thanks SO much for your time!”
The second woman contacted me 3 times through 2 different channels, over the course of just a few minutes. In the middle of the night. One of her notes was written in all caps — the universal symbol for YELLING.
Both women needed my help.
Both women asked for it.
Both women received it — promptly, and without question.
But I was struck by how different each interaction felt, in my heart and body.
How one elevated my energy, while the other snagged like a thorn.
I knew there was a lesson swirled into this pair of ordinary, everyday email exchanges.
At first, I thought it might be a lesson about “how to ask for what you need.” Nope, not it. Then I thought it might be a lesson about “email etiquette.” Not quite it, either. Then I thought it might be a lesson for business owners, on “how to gracefully contend with unhappy customers.” Naw. It’s bigger — and ironically, simpler — than that.
Ultimately, I realized that this experience didn’t carry a practical how-to lesson —but rather, a soul-reminder. For myself. And others.
Whenever you open your mouth — or place your fingers on the keyboard — you have an opportunity to add to the love in the world, or subtract from it.
You have an opportunity to lift someone’s spirits — or sink ‘em.
You have a chance to get what you need while giving — or get what you need while taking.
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a text message to a childhood friend, calling your grandma on her 100th birthday, popping off a quick email to a colleague, or filling out a form on the Internet.
Eventually, your words will reach a living, breathing, feeling human being.
Eventually, your words will land, and leave a mark.
Eventually, your words will enter into the cosmic equation of compassion.
So: when it comes to Love, the question is simple:
Do you want to be an Adder, or a Subtractor?
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