I am someone who often engages in the “people watching” thing. Human behavior fascinates me. When I people watch, I observe how people carry themselves and move through the world, how they hold themselves when they speak or are thinking, and I take note of the difference between body language when people are by themselves as opposed to with others.
In one particular instance, I was waiting for a friend to arrive for a lunch date. I had not seen her in about a year and she was running a little late. As I was waiting, I found myself staring intently at a conversation that was happening at a table across the room between two women. It did not take me very long to realize that at least one of them was deaf as they were clearly using sign language to communicate. (Note: I am using “deaf” in the acknowledgement that there are individual preferences as to how those that are deaf like to self-refer.)
I find sign language mesmerizing – words become hand movements and look, to me, like birds in flight. Therapists often talk about the “dance” of a relationship and conversation. Sign language is the epitome and visible embodiment of this relational and conversational dance.
As I watched (okay, I admit, it was super rude to stare), I noticed how hands are used in sign language to convey emotion, intensity, respect for the person in conversation with, and passion. Sometimes, it was graceful, gentle and gracious with intermittent gentle touches to drive a point home. Other times, there was what seemed like wild gesticulation; quick and cutting through the air to convey, to the best of my knowledge, something the speaker was passionate about, may have been emotionally triggered by and found important to convey or emphasize.
I was taken aback by the clarity of seeing and understanding that our hands can convey so much depending on how we use them. Hands can caress, cradle, support, warm, protect, soothe, stroke, draw close, clap, high-five – possibly conveying joy, pride, love, passion, desire, and support. But, they can also hit, throw, break, scratch, push away, punch, withhold, grab, tear apart – potentially communicating disgust, fear, anger, disrespect, hatred, disapproval, judgment, and jealousy.
What would my words be doing to the person I am speaking to if my words were hands? Then, I had an insight. (I hate it when that happens, by the way, because insight demands change and you can never go back to not knowing.)
What I see commonly in relationships is that we tend to treat the worst those who are the closest to us. We remain silent all day in the presence of tyrannical bosses and managers only to go home and unleash our frustration on to unsuspecting family members and loved ones. Hands may not be physically raised, but if our words were hands…. Or, if our not speaking or ignoring, when words are necessary, were hands….
A small shift in perspective has the power to change who we are and how we choose to be with others.
I invite you to a shift in your perspective.
Think of your words as hands and see what happens.