Why is it difficult to use nice words?


I was sitting in a public space and a woman had her laptop out and her cord strung across the narrow walkway between her chair and the wall.  The cord was pretty obvious, but still one guy walked past and managed to snag his foot and trip over the cord. He recovered well, managing both to stay on his feet and say with an embarrassed tone, "Whoa! That's not a good spot for a cord."

At this point, the laptop owner snapped back at him, "WEEEELLLLLL, YOU need to watch where you're walking!!"

The incident caught the attention of everyone in shouting distance as I noticed I wasn't the only one staring at that the pair. Fortunately, the exchange didn't escalate, but still I couldn't help but wonder why it was so difficult for either party to say something kind.

Why not a well-placed "excuse me" or quick apology?

Is it me, or does it seem like kindness is no longer a default option?  Where have all of our thoughtful words gone? Why do we not speak gently to each other?

The classic poem by David Bates seems to be an especially apt reminder and inspiration.  Read, enjoy, and, more important, practice!

Speak Gently

Speak gently! -- It is better far To rule by love, than fear -- Speak gently -- let not harsh words mar The good we might do here!

Speak gently! -- Love doth whisper low The vows that true hearts bind; And gently Friendship's accents flow; Affection's voice is kind.

Speak gently to the little child! Its love be sure to gain; Teach it in accents soft and mild: -- It may not long remain.

Speak gently to the young, for they Will have enough to bear -- Pass through this life as best they may, 'T is full of anxious care!

Speak gently to the aged one, Grieve not the care-worn heart; The sands of life are nearly run, Let such in peace depart!

Speak gently, kindly, to the poor; Let no harsh tone be heard; They have enough they must endure, Without an unkind word!

Speak gently to the erring -- know, They may have toiled in vain; Perchance unkindness made them so; Oh, win them back again!

Speak gently! -- He who gave his life To bend man's stubborn will, When elements were in fierce strife, Said to them, 'Peace, be still.'

Speak gently! -- 't is a little thing Dropped in the heart's deep well; The good, the joy, which it may bring, Eternity shall tell.

David Bates