New Novel Sneak Peek: “Words of Affirmation”

Here’s the next installment of my sneak peaks!

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Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how much we know something. Sometimes we need the verbal validation and affirmation that we are correct or that we have approval.

Thank about it. You may know that your math homework is correct or that your grammar in your essay is, but you still need a teacher’s approval in order to pass.

But this “need” isn’t always a necessary thing in order to check the box and move on. Sometimes, it’s a deeper, emotional need. For instance, think back to that essay—yes you need the approval from the teacher that your grammar is correct; but maybe it’s the essay you’re most proud of, or not, but you want that validation that your teacher likes it. If he or she doesn’t leave any comments and just gives you a grade, you may be left wondering if the grade is for the content or the grammar!

On the other hand, if he or she does leave comments and they are glowing, instantly, you can let go of a sigh of relief. A smile spreads across your face, and you feel accomplished.

Similarly, maybe you’re out shopping with your friends and you see a shirt and instantly want it. But it’s daring—maybe it looks to be a little smug, or maybe the joke on it is a little too nuanced and you worry that people will judge you. So, you turn to your friend, you say what do you think? Again, you want that validation, or perhaps it’s not “want” but “need” that validation to actually buy it.

So, too it is with connection and affection. I knew a person who liked someone—they hung out regularly, they even had a show together—but this person was too nervous to actually make a move. Now, that move didn’t necessarily have to be romantic, it could have been a move toward a deeper friendship. Either way, this person didn’t make a move to further the relationship because they felt that there was lack of affirmation (and perhaps permission) to do so.

I’m sure you’ve all heard that “actions speak louder than words,” and in many cases, that’s true. However, when we casually throw that idiom so flippantly, we forget how loud words can be.

A touch or a smile may communicate between the lines of prose or speech, but the words are also important. We use words so much, so frequently, we often forget their power. We use and manipulate them so that we mangle their meaning for our own benefit, but not necessarily for others’. And yet, often times, we need to receive these affirming words as often as we should give them.

Now, that’s not to say that one should only rely on words—there is some truth to the idea that repetition results in a lessened meaning. We must learn to not be stingy nor overgenerous with our words. Once, a former flame was irritating the hell out of me—I felt so strongly for him, and an “I love you” slipped out. I remember feeling embarrassed, as though I had put my foot in my mouth, I felt I had made a mistake because, thanks to Cosmo and all the other dating advice flung at women, I had always been taught to let the man say it first. But my person simply looked at me and smiled; I remember he said, “I don’t want to say it back unless I really mean it.”

Of course, I was understanding but also flabbergasted—I had met his family and his coworkers, we shared friends, things were great and yet he couldn’t say it? But when he did, four months after we started seeing each other, it made hearing those three little words that much more exciting.

So, it is important to affirm others through our words—as my anecdote, I think, demonstrates, they have great influence over those in our lives. You hear all the time where disgruntled couples lament that the other doesn’t thank each other anymore or other such complaints.

But it’s also important to affirm ourselves. I had a friend who would often freely and enthusiastically express her feelings and then she’d clam up and apologize for them. Even though she was sharing accolades and love and pride and support, she did not affirm, for herself, that it was okay to be so transparent with feelings.

You hear it too, with self-help books. “You have to love yourself first… You have to help yourself first… et cetera.” And it’s true—now “first” is a little relative and perhaps up to you to determine the order of priority, but regardless, it’s equally necessary to connect with yourself and validate yourself. Because, if you aren’t honest and connected and affirming with yourself, how effective do you think you will be in affirming others?

Sure, you may still influence them, you may still make them feel better—or worse—with what you say, but how effective will you be in not just communicating but connecting and understanding them?

Like with touch, words are seemingly simple at first glance—we do both every day—but the implications of how they are used can be so nuanced that they are often overlooked.

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