Merge's Blog

Respond calmly by “putting a stone in your mouth”

Being able to respond calmly in the face of anger can be difficult.  A client (who is from the Nisga’a nation) recently shared with me this powerful advice from a Nisga’a elder –

“Put a stone in your mouth”. 

It was in the context of being thoughtful about when to speak and what to say in potentially challenging situations.

If only you could turn back time …

Consider for a moment, all the times in the past when you have said something, only to wish afterwards that you could turn back time and do it differently.  All too often, emotionally-charged circumstances cause us say things we invariably regret later.  When you “put a stone in your mouth”, it is a powerful metaphoric reminder to pause; to feel the contours and ragged edges of the rock; to shift it around in your mouth as you consider what you should or ought to say or not say.  When you pause before you speak, the silence can seem interminable to you, but at the end, it can in fact become your best friend.  Words that are spoken thoughtfully, rather than in haste, are much more likely to give you the outcomes that you desire.

So the next time you find yourself in a meeting (or an unplanned interaction) that has the potential to escalate, pause to “Put a stone in your mouth”.  You will be thankful later.

Well, what do you think?  Do you think “putting a (metaphoric) stone in your mouth” to respond calmly is difficult?  If so, what’s the biggest hurdle or obstacle that gets in the way of you pausing before you speak.  I’d love to hear about your experiences, so please comment below.

Several years ago, I wrote this blog post – Maintaining your composure – do you react or respond? – that starred a large scary spider.  Writing today’s blog post brought it to mind, you might enjoy it.

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