Tuesday, 14 November, 2006

Have you given anybody flowers today?

I was privilegedl this evening to hear a new member of my Toastmasters club give a speech entitled, "Have you given anybody flowers today?" The title caught my attention, and she kept my attention throughout her five minute talk. I can't recite her presentation from memory, but I did manage to get the gist of it.

When we're young we're taught that "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." It's a nice thought. As we grow older, we learn just how terribly hurtful words can be. There are people who are quite adept at applying verbal sticks and stones. Friends and lovers know all of the most tender spots and can injure with carefully selected words. It's probably not the words that hurt so much, but rather the idea that somebody I love and trust would hurt me on purpose.

If hurtful words are sticks and stones, then what do we call compliments? R (the speaker) put forth the idea that we call them flowers--verbal flowers. Verbal flowers can delight and let another know that you really do like and appreciate him or her. A smile and a sincere, "you look nice today" can brighten somebody's day and maybe help erase the pain of the verbal sticks and stones that we're inundated with on a daily basis. Yes, your partner should know that you love her (or him), but it's so much nicer to hear not only, "I love you," but also, "you look beautiful," or "I enjoy the sound of your voice."

Verbal flowers don't have to be limited just to friends and lovers. Everybody responds positively to compliments. Is it so difficult to say to somebody, "you did a great job" or something similar? In our increasingly critical world, verbal flowers are more welcome than ever.

In the 18 months or so that I've been involved with Toastmasters I've been continually impressed at how quickly a new member can go from literally getting sick at the idea of speaking in front of a group to presenting an idea with aplomb. R. is a beautiful woman in her mid 20s who attended her first Toastmasters meeting just two months ago and was visibly uncomfortable speaking. Tonight she was poised and confident, presenting a wonderful idea with grace, humor, and feeling. It was a joy to watch and listen, and she gave me something that I'll remember forever.