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Biting Our Tongue

The first job I had after graduating university was teaching English as a second language. One of the classes I taught occurred once students had reached a high level of fluency – and  it was about the use of idioms and metaphors. I didn’t realize how strange metaphors and idioms sound to people learning different languages till then. Sometimes the phrases resonated with similar ones used in various cultures. Sometimes not. We shared stories about the meaning and gave examples and laughed a lot!! One example is unrelated to today’s blog but worthy of mention because we all laughed really hard about it. When we answer the door or a call for someone who is busy we might say, ‘Sorry, he’s tied up right now.’ To people who have learned the literal meaning of the words ‘tied up’ this answer would be quite alarming!

So, saying ‘I bit my tongue’ as a way of saying I kept myself from saying something I would  regret, or ‘ I didn’t want to eat my words’ as a way of saying I didn’t want to admit my mistake, were not the easiest concepts to grasp. Today’s blog is about how you might consider deconstructing one of your disputes when you would say or did say you bit your tongue, and another when you wished you’d eaten your words!

  • As you bring to mind an interpersonal  dispute in which you bit your tongue from saying what was on your mind to say, what was that conflict about?
  • What were you thinking to say – or on the brink of saying – when you ‘bit your tongue’?
  • What hurt most – biting your tongue or not saying what was on your mind?
  • What compelled you to hold back from what you were going to say?
  • What different outcome might there have been if you had not bit your tongue?
  • What did you lose by not saying what you were going to? What did you gain?
  • Now, as you bring to mind another interpersonal dispute  in which you wished you had ‘eaten your words’, what was that one about?
  • What words did you utter that you wished you hadn’t?  What were the consequences of not eating your words?
  • How might you describe what the ‘taste’ might have been for you (metaphorically) if you had eaten your words?
  • And what was the ‘taste’ of not doing so?
  • Under what circumstances do you think it’s a good idea to ‘eat your words’? To ‘bite your tongue’?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

#conflict management

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