Have you ever noticed how language can sometimes strip away the heart of things, leaving us with words that carry less weight? It’s almost like a safety net, isn’t it? If we keep things vague or non-committal, maybe it won’t hurt as much if things don’t work out.

“Language is designed to take the heart out of things so that there is no commitment and so that if there is rejection, it’s not so bad. If you want a connection with someone, be intentional in your actions and your language.”

– Unknown

I recently stumbled upon this quote and it got me thinking. In a world where connections seem fleeting, we often opt for the safer route of saying “Love you” instead of fully expressing “I love you.” To some it may seem like not big a deal, but it is. Language matters. Why risk vulnerability when rejection could be waiting around the corner? This dilemma has been weighing on me, wondering how to navigate this chilly world without the comfort of emotional security – why can’t I just get away with a simple “Luv u!” or “C u!” incase it blows back.

Many of us can relate to this fear of vulnerability. Whether we’re just starting a relationship, settling into a comfortable phase, or recovering from betrayal, the instinct to protect ourselves is strong. We use language as our shield, avoiding deep emotional connections and commitments.

So, what does this language look like and what impact does it have?

Firstly, there’s ambiguity and a lack of commitment. Sound familiar? We use vague language to skirt around our true intentions. “Maybe we can do dinner one of these days?” – a question that’s really an escape hatch, reducing the risk of rejection. Or what about steering conversations away from emotional depth, sticking to superficial topics to dodge openness and vulnerability?

I caught myself doing this recently. When a friend couldn’t be there for me when I needed them, I downplayed my feelings to protect myself from disappointment. Instead of saying “I really want you to be here,” I softened it to “If you can, please pop by.” Of course, they didn’t show up. It dawned on me that my fear of more letdowns had led me to use language that keeps emotional investment at arm’s length.

Ultimately, the fear of vulnerability stems from a fear of rejection. Language becomes a shield, muffling our true feelings and desires to avoid rejection or not being accepted for who we are.

We often gloss over our own wants, needs, and desires, both with ourselves and with others. In a previous blog post, I asked: Do You Know What You Need to Feel Loved? Have you ever really thought about it?

Many of us lack this self-awareness when it comes to our emotional needs. Maybe past experiences or upbringing discouraged emotional expression, leaving us disconnected from our feelings. Negative experiences like rejection or emotional abuse might have pushed us further from recognising and expressing our needs.

Journal Prompt: Today, jot down five things you need. What do you truly need this week? Then, if possible, assign them – to yourself or to a family member, a partner or even to a friend. For instance, “I’d like to go on a lunch date with…” or “I miss my friend… I should reach out” or “I am going to go on a hike and let … know that I want them to join me”.

It’s important to realise that while our language strategies protect us from vulnerability and rejection, they also hinder our personal growth and intimacy in relationships. Be willing to accept and hear the “No”. Building closeness even with one’s self is accepting the rejection. Building trust and closeness also means embracing openness and vulnerability. Through communication, we gain understanding, empathy, and emotional honesty – the building blocks of fulfilling, meaningful relationships.