Roman Emperor and philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, said: If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.

This quote from this 2nd century Roman emperor speaks directly to the truth that our ways of communication are powerful means by which we may inspire others to cooperate or collaborate with us or, on the contrary, to shut down and turn their backs to us. It’s easy to see in life that words and, even more significantly, tone of voice and body language, can contribute to healing or to harming.

Healing can be anything from the skillful resolution of an argument to enabling others to feel safer in our presence. Hurting can be anything from a less-than-desirable managing of a conflict between oneself and another to treatment of another person in such a manner that dignity is not granted to him/her.

We all know the sting of a comment that does nothing but conveys a conspicuous absence of dignity and respect. Reflecting on the teaching of Marcus Aurelius, if it is wrong to strike someone with our fist, it is equally wrong to strike him/her with our words, tone of voice, or body language.

Robert Whiteside, March 2015

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