She Stole My Laugh
When I was in 4th grade, a girl told me my laugh was loud and annoying. I believed her and from that day on, I held in my laugh. I laughed silently or very quietly and did so for so long that I nearly forgot what my real laugh sounds like.
It wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized I hadn't heard it in nearly 10 years.
If I were to ask that girl if she remembers the interaction I just told you about I guarantee she’d say no. Why? Because it didn’t matter to her. It was nothing more than an impulsive comment.
That impulsive comment took away my real laugh for a decade.
We all say things without thinking, but we rarely consider the impact those words may have. Part of my social anxiety means I latch onto negative comments, because they’re a form of judgement, and I do everything in my power to make sure I’m never judged about that particular thing again.
In this case, I’d been judged for my laugh. To make sure it didn’t happen again, I changed it to something quiet that no one could ever find annoying. It was a lot less happy, it wasn’t nearly as much fun for me, but I knew I wasn’t annoying.
You never know what people are struggling with. You have no idea if someone has social anxiety. You have no idea if your comment about their loud laugh will make them change the sound of it.
You have no idea how impactful your words may be.
Here’s what I’m getting at: think before you speak. If you’re about to criticize someone over something they have no power over, STOP. If they can't fix it or if it isn’t inherently bad, don’t bring it up.
Instead, be gentle with your words. I remember the positive things people tell me, too. I remember them specifically. Positive comments can be just as impulsive as negative ones. Positive comments fill someone with joy the rest of the day.
But one negative comment can override a hundred positive ones. I still think about the girl in 4th grade every time I laugh. Even though my friends have told me they love my real laugh, I still think about her. Even though my real laugh makes me feel like I’m exploding with joy, I still think about her.
Let your impulsive comments have a major impact on someone’s life, but let it be a good one. Speak with love. Don’t hold in compliments, no matter how small they are. Tell people the things you like about them, even if they’re a stranger. Help others grow in areas where they are weak.
Don’t point out things they can do nothing about. Don’t make them feel bad about something they shouldn’t feel bad about.
Don’t let your words take away someone’s laugh.