March 09, 2010


A reader requested that I write a blog regarding the old saying Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.  I can’t tell you how many times I repeated this very saying when I was a kid as a quick comeback.  I thought that the more I said it, the stronger I would be and the less name calling would hurt.  For some reason it never quite worked out that way; the name calling almost always hurt. 

This is true as we grow up as well.  Name calling hurts because it is intended to hurt...and sometimes it hurts more than sticks and stones.  This is true even when the person who is calling the names later says they didn’t mean it.  The reality is they did mean it and they meant for it to hurt.

Those people who try to say they didn’t mean what they said in anger are lying.  What they really mean is they don’t want to be held accountable for what they said in anger.  They want to try to pin it on you for being so “sensitive.”  Don’t fall for it.  You know if it hurt or not--it was said to you!  In fact, the closer the name-calling person is to you, the more painful the name calling is.  Name calling is abusive, which is another reason why it hurts--abuse hurts.

If you’re the one doing the name calling--stop it.  Don’t claim you didn’t mean what you said.  If you said it, then take full responsibility for your actions.  If the other person was hurt by it, don’t blame their hurt on their sensitivity.  They were hurt by your words because your words were meant to hurt.  If you say it, at least have the courage to be accountable.  If you really didn’t mean to let something slip out, then repair the damage and work on controlling your tongue.

We’re all human and therefore mess up from time to time. Don’t, however, compound a mistake by pretending it was nothing.  If someone close to you does that to you--don’t fall for it.  Hold them accountable and stand up for yourself.

CHALLENGE:  Be determined to watch what you say and how you say it.  Your words wield a lot of power so make sure that power is for the positive.  Don’t kid yourself into thinking words don’t hurt.  Know that they do and be accountable for them.  Hold others accountable for theirs as well.


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What can I do if the person (my boyfriend of 4.5 years) insists that he isn't calling me names when he says "you are being a b****" or "you are being ridiculous?" To me, those statements can only ever be name-calling. I'm having difficulty understanding his claim that he's commenting on my behavior rather than calling me a name. I know he's differentiating between saying that I am *being* something, rather than I *am* something. Still, these type of statements do not seem to have a place in respectful conversation. I can't seem to explain that to him without coming off as trying to be "right" and say that he is "wrong," another type of statement that I don't think can be used in a respectful discussion.

Thank you for your thoughts.

Dear Rachelle: Don't get into a battle about trying to convince him he's name-calling and instead just set the limit. Be clear that regardless of whether or not he thinks it's name calling, it is not okay for him to speak to you like that. Let him know that if he continues it will hurt your relationship. Every time he speaks like that ask him once to change it and then end the conversation until he speaks with respect.
Good luck-Lisa
PS: You are correct--it is verbally abusive

I agree with you on the stick and stones.I know this is true because I have a boyfriend we have been dating for 2 years and at first he wasn't like how he currently is. He broke up with me and now we are back together. He started getting worse after I dated another guy after he broke up with me. He is verbally abusive and I almost cry everyday. He is going to anger management soon and I hope he can fix those problems.
Thank you for writing about this.

Dear Violeta: You're very welcome. Good for him for going to anger management. If, however, he continues to be verbally abusive, do not settle for an abusive relationship--ever. Get into couples work, set limits and leave if you have to but don't settle.
Take care-Lisa

I agree with you on the sticks and stones. I know this to be true because I grew up with and am still going through it. It brings on health problems also. I'm going through bad nerves, and depression because of all the years of abuse. Thank you for telling it like it is.
Cheryl Norwood

You're very welcome!

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