Today, we live in the world of words. More than any other time in history, we communicate more. As I once wrote, “…everywhere one goes, words are there blasting over radio and television sets, jarring ear-drums with (un)intelligible messages, words are there assailing one’s sight in dazzling colours in the form of headlines or reports, with different forms and fonts in newspapers, magazines and the computer screen. Today’s world solely depends on words.”
The world is wordy and there is no escape from words. But the words we use go a long way in determining who we are. For the umpteenth time, the words of Birk and Birk in their “Using and Understanding English” (1959), still come to mind. According to them, “mere words can make and prevent wars, create understanding or inflame prejudice, form constitutions or destroy them, sell shoddy or superior products or ideas, justify man’s worst actions and express his highest ideals.” This is a truism.
The advent of the internet and the social media has given words a blast. Everyone now has an opinion and there is nothing as depressing as going through the comments of Nigerians on various blogs and websites. The tendency towards violent communication among us has gained ascendancy especially since the commencement of our. “do or die” politics. Foul language now fills the cyberspace dripping with blood, hatred, prejudice and hubris. Those who use it think they are wise but they are otherwise.
The language you use is a reflection of your world. Therefore, make conscious efforts to communicate peacefully. If others rant, curse, shout, attack and destroy, don’t join them. If you can’t beat them, you leave them in peace! As the Glorious Qur’an (Chapter 25: 63) puts it, “And the servants of the Beneficent Allah are they who walk on the earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say: Peace!”
Everyone, regardless of age or stage, is a student in the University of Life. It is therefore incumbent on us all to be educated on peaceful communication. Based on the work of Gomes de Matos (2006), there are principles and strategies of peaceful communication. The four principles are simply that you “Love Your Communicative Neighbour; Dignify Your Daily Dialogues; Prioritise Positivisers In Your Language Use and Be A Communicative Humaniser.”
After digesting the principles, you internalise the three strategies of peaceful communication which are imbibing communicative contrasts, adopting memorable alliterations and using “positivisers”, a generic term used for peace-enhancing words.
On the communicative contrasts, these are: “don’t denigrate, appreciate; don’t detract, attract; don’t suspect, respect; don’t manipulate, cooperate; don’t discard, regard; don’t offend, commend; don’t indoctrinate, illuminate; don’t impose, propose; don’t mortify, dignify; don’t humiliate, humanize; don’t resist, assist and don’t attack (verbally), question.”
Besides, the memorable alliterations that should be adopted are as follows: “AAA: Aim at affect and amiability; BBB: Build bridges of blessings; CCC: Consider controversies constructively; DDD: Develop a democratic discourse; FFF: Foster friendship and fraternity; HHH: Honour humanity and humaneness; III: Inculcate integration and interdependence; JJJ: Join justice and peace joyfully; LLL: Lead with life-supporting love; MMM: Multiply mediation and meditation and NNN: Nourish negotiation norms; OOO: Opt for openheartedness and open-mindedness; PPP: Perceive people as peace partners; SSS: Sustain security and solidarity; TTT: Treat others with tact and tenderness; UUU: Unite for ultimate universality; VVV: Veto violent vocabulary and WWW: Weigh your words with wisdom.”
Lastly, the positivisers are that you try always to accept, agree, acknowledge, assist, bless, bridge, build, celebrate, commend, construct, converge, cooperate, create, democratise, develop, dignify, educate, empathize, encourage, enhance, entertain, forgive, foster, help, honour, humanise, improve, instruct, interact, like, love, praise, promote, reconcile, respect, share, support, thank, trust and unite, not otherwise.
After imbibing these strategies, you then try, it may be difficult in the beginning in our hostile environment where abusive and violent language is often employed, to relate and interact with others affirmatively, agreeably/amicably/appreciatively, benevolently, benignly, big-heartedly, caringly, civic-mindedly, compassionately, conciliatorily, considerately, cordially, constructively, dignifyingly, dutifully, empathetically, empoweringly, encouragingly, equitably, ethically, fairly, forgivingly, good-heartedly, good-naturedly, generously, gently, graciously, helpfully, humanely, humanitarianly, humanisingly, humbly, honestly, harmoniously, hopefully, impartially, interdependently, joyfully, justly, kindly, lovingly, magnanimously, mercifully, non-judgementally, nonviolently, optimistically, openly, patiently, positively, reliably, respectfully, responsibly, selflessly, sensitively, supportively, sympathetically, tactfully, tenderly, thoughtfully, trustworthily, trustingly, understandingly, unselfishly, virtuously and well-meaningfully.
When all is said and done, you would appreciate that you can always make your point without going ballistic, without abusing, insulting, denigrating or destroying others. Try it!