12/29/2013 12:15 pm ET Updated Feb 28, 2014

Talk to Thrive

"Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak." -- Alan Dundes

A friend of mine called me last night in tears, telling me that she had a very serious fight with her mother over the situation in Turkey. It wasn't hard for me to relate to her. Recently, I have sadly been witnessing fights or attacks on good friends or have been targeted by them because of disagreements over the chaotic political situation in Turkey. Since the start of the Gezi demonstrations, Turkey has become more polarized every day. There are confusing and unpredictable actions and irresponsible statements made by politicians, media members and public figures every other day. Of course social media is fueling the fire in these uncertain times, and pandemonium is going on.

It seems that everyone has an incurable "fight to be right syndrome," and it is going from bad to worse. Most people are busy speaking or criticizing harshly while very few are listening to understand.

Think about it, most of us were hurt during childhood by either a bully or a teacher or a loved one and still remember some of the things that were said to us ages ago if they were said in criticism, humiliation or rejection. They had an impact on our feelings, ambitions or sense of selves for a long time. In this heated period, unfortunately, many of us have fought with parents, siblings, cousins or best friends just because of disagreements in politics. We should be cautious, because words can be extremely damaging, and their momentary effects can change our relationships forever. Such damage can filter down into our emotional memories to reflect in the back of our minds.

However, since words can be very powerful, I don't understand why we don't use them to lift someone up and support them rather than knocking them down. As a society we should remember that problems are ours and it is our responsibility to be part of the solution. It is time to think of what we can do to protect ourselves from others' hurtful words to eliminate destructive dialog. However, since people hear what they want to hear no matter what we say, we can be pulled into a very uncomfortable conversation without realizing it.

Here is what I repeatedly remind myself to remain sane these days and what I told my friend to make her feel better for her second round of talks with her mother: If things get heated, remain grounded in wise speech and remember, you are not responsible for the other person's words, but you are responsible for your own. You don't have much influence on others, but you have power over yourself. Try to be faultless with your words. To be able to do that speak from your heart and always tell the truth. If you cannot speak the truth at the moment just be quiet and wait for the right time to come, but never be manipulative by taking words out of context and say only what you mean. Speak with integrity. Make an effort not to be driven by impulse. Think more and talk less. Use your own judgment to see if your words are necessary or beneficial to make things better or worse. Always speak with goodwill. Be constructive. "Raise your words, not voice," says Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi. So remember, you shouldn't be harsh with others. In a good statement, words can be firm, pointed or intense but cannot be rude, inflammatory or snarky.

Use some empathy. Courage is not only speaking up to be an advocate of your thoughts but also sitting down and listening to others. "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak," Epictetus said, so be a good listener. That's all I can say. Of course those principles cannot guarantee that the person you are speaking to will respond to you fairly. Nevertheless, at least you wouldn't be resentful later.

Turkey is striving for true democracy to be more transparent and accountable in all sectors. Good days are approaching. We should be ready. We are at the learning stages of freedom of expression and figuring out that it is not meant to be the freedom to humiliate or accuse others but to guarantee the ability to freely defend our thoughts and ideas. So we should speak to be heard and understood. It is time to communicate with care and wisdom. Remember, it is a difficult time not only for you, but it is a very sensitive time for everyone.

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