The Ripple Effect

One day I was training Zeal, in my yard and my next-door neighbor asked me a question.  “Is he responding more to the actual words, or to your tone?”  Hmmmm, good question.  I wanted to say it was the actual words.  However, I tend to fly by the seat of my pants when I train, so I don’t always know exactly how I end up with the desired result.   As I continued training, I paid attention to what I said and HOW I said it.   It quickly became clear that it was my tone, my body and the energy and emotion it conveyed that was having the biggest impact.   Which makes total sense. 

I mean you can take any words, say them with a different tone and give them completely different meanings.  Isn’t that why there is so much conflict in the world?  In relationships, families, between friends, co-workers, etc.?  The words themselves can cause great harm, or make someone feel amazing, DEPENDING on the tone and the energy behind it.  I can say “Thanks!” to the gas attendant as he gives me my change, smile and wish him well… or I can say “Thanks!” in an annoyed tone, grab the change and drive away.  Same word, different impact. 

The problem is, we are often completely unaware of what we say and how we say it.  Which, in and of itself, might not be a large problem, except everything we do and say has an impact.  It ripples out around us.  It can harm, or it can help.  Barely acknowledging someone can make them feel invisible, unimportant, unappreciated.  It also keeps us isolated.  And we are putting out energy that closes us down.  It takes the same amount of time and energy to acknowledge them in some small way.  Smile, sincerely thank them, wish them well, compliment them.  It will leave both of you feeling better.  And increase the odds that you AND the person you acknowledged will be nice to the next person and so on, thereby creating a positive ripple.

Snipping at someone we don’t know may seem relatively harmless, we can even convince ourselves that it’s justified.   The attendant was slow and I’m in a big rush, the attendant couldn’t count my change fast enough and I have important things to accomplish, etc.  But what do you really know about that person?  Maybe he is having a terrible day.  Maybe he has suffered a personal tragedy.  Maybe he is sad, maybe he feels unappreciated, maybe he is ill, maybe he is trying his very best and is frustrated that people don’t find it good enough.  That’s his problem, not mine you may say.  And yes, to a certain extent it is.  But we are all interconnected.  The words we say and the emotions and intentions behind them have been compared to a stone that is dropped in a still water and creates outward ripples.  If the stone carries kindness, empathy and compassion, that ripples outward.  If the stone carries anger, frustration, disappointment, distance, that ripples outward as well.  

What we say and how we say it impacts us and everyone around us.  Literally everyone we come in contact with.  We should all strive to be aware of what we say, how we say it and why we say it.  With social media today, it’s especially important.  Because we are not communicating in person, it’s easier to say things that are unkind.  Whether intentional, or not.   But the intent and energy are the same.  Do you want to carry around and project negative energy?  Or positive energy?   It’s as easy as making a conscious choice.  If it’s not positive, then sit on it for a day or two.  Perhaps you may change your mind and realize it wasn’t worth sending or posting.   

I use the same concept when someone does something unkind to me. Of course, I’m human and initially, it hurts.  But I picture myself as the lake.  I can absorb the stone and let the negativity end with me.  No ripples.  Or, I can latch onto what was done to me, repeat it over and over.  Tell others who will then be upset and let that ripple outward.  My choice.  Absorbing the stone is not easy.  Not by a longshot.  And it takes practice and being self-aware.  But I can say from personal experience, having lots of practice with both options, it’s the choice that brings more peace.

Dogs are wonderful mirrors, if we take the time to pay attention.  My dogs reflect how I feel.  If I am training and I’m not in a good state of mind, my dogs feel it.  Fortunately, I can see it and make the choice to set it aside for that day.  Dealing with sadness, frustration, impatience, anger, etc. feels bad for us, it feels bad for the animals and it feels bad for the humans around us.   Perpetuating those feelings on others may help us feel better for the very, very short term.  But never, ever in the long term. 

Just to be clear, I’m an introvert.  Communicating with humans is not my strong suit.  It’s actually quite challenging for me.  But when I realized that everything I did and said (and often what I chose NOT to say) had an impact that rippled outward I realized I needed to push my comfort zone. 

Today’s world can definitely use more kindness.  I challenge you to think about what you say, and how you say it.  To think about what you write and what you post.  To focus on the positive rather than the negative.  Tiny acts of kindness may seem unimportant.  But they ALL grow larger, as they ripple outwards.

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