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Positively Speaking: Don’t say anything at all

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By Toby Moore

For Capital Region Independent Media

Headshot of man named Toby Moore
Toby Moore

We all know people who will not say something polite just because it’s socially desirable. They feel that if they compliment somebody just because it’s nice to say, they lie because the compliment was inorganic. I understand that sentiment and can get behind it.

Words are powerful. I suspect we still don’t know the true power of words. At a basic level, we know our words can build someone up or tear them down; we all know that words have consequences.

While giving someone a kind word is always polite, bad-mouthing someone can have severe ramifications, even when said behind their back. Disrespectful comments can destroy relationships. In today’s world, this can happen even when you’re alone, where you think nobody can hear you.

It reminds me of the old saying we’ve all heard: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” It’s simple but relevant advice, especially in the digital age.

While most of us are aware of the effects of social media, sadly we are just beginning to understand that we are being watched and listened to. Many of our devices are listening to us, and most of us tend not to care because what’s the worst that can happen? Will Alexa, Siri or Cortana rat me out to my friends if I say something terrible about them? Probably not.

There are cameras everywhere, too. They are in places you’d never expect them to be, sometimes hidden in our homes. While this is a clear violation of privacy, if someone were to hear the confidential words you spoke to yourself or your spouse, it could destroy everything.

I know of a family that faithfully comes together every year for Christmas. They cook, eat, exchange gifts and openly express their love for one another; they’ve done this for decades. 

This year things were different. Half the family decided not to show up. When asked why, they said they didn’t have the time this year and tried to downplay their absence.

After much back and forth, somebody revealed the truth.

During Christmas 2021, amidst the annual holiday party, some family members spoke very negatively about other family members in the privacy of their bedrooms.

At first, they denied ever saying anything wrong, but eventually, they discovered that it was pointless to lie about it; it was all recorded on camera.

One of the younger teenagers was given cameras as a gift and secretly placed them all over the house; everything was recorded. Both sides were devastated.

Although they loved each other, they still had many negative things to say. Every recorded word was analyzed and studied by the offended party. It’s too early to tell if they will find forgiveness.

Is it OK to speak negatively of others? Sure. Will it make you feel better to vent? Only temporarily. 

Speaking our minds and venting our frustrations is only natural. We’ve all done it.

I know a girl who is a director at an advertising agency. She tells me she’s exhausted and tired of work. She can’t do it anymore. I asked her why and she said her primary co-worker is constantly complaining and speaking poorly of other co-workers. It has sapped her of all her positive energy. Her enthusiasm is gone.

Have you ever felt drained and unhappy after complaining or listening to someone complain?

Many of us feel it’s good to vent and that we must let it out. Sometimes that works. We express ourselves and never speak of it again. We are usually just fanning the flames and making it worse, increasing our anger and resentment.

Every thought, word and action produces a blend of chemical peptides in our brains. These peptides cause us to have feelings. When thinking and speaking negative things about yourself and others, chemical peptides are released into your body that make you feel bad. Simply listening to someone’s negativity can have the same effect.

Your words have great power. Develop the habit of speaking positively about yourself and others. Let this article remind you that if you can’t think of anything positive to say, maybe you shouldn’t say anything at all.

Toby Moore is a columnist, the star of Emmy-nominated “A Separate Peace,” and the CEO of Cubestream Inc.

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