Speaking With Intention: Sticks and Stones and the Damage of Words

By Amanda Cardini, Co-Editor

Despite the old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” words can be harmful. Most of us don’t always think before we speak, especially if we’re talking to friends or peers. If we feel comfortable with the person we’re talking to, it’s easy to simply start talking before planning the words that are about to be said. Spoken words are often just whatever comes to mind, and they can, at times, hurt.

Speaking with intention takes practice, and I would never claim to be an expert on it. It’s something that I work on consistently, as someone that loves to speak her mind (those that know me are probably thinking “what a surprise”). But while I enjoy voicing my opinions, I strive to do so in a way that is not offensive or hurtful to those listening, but constructive, and conducive to positive change.

During Tribute weekend, I was a little disappointed in the lack of intentional speaking in conversations between alumni and current students. I want to be clear that the majority of my interactions throughout the weekend were wonderful, and I enjoyed the majority of the alumni I met. But some conversations left me feeling disheartened.

Without rehashing all of the details, here are just a few examples. For one, many interactions between alumni and Pat, the bartender at the Pub, were downright demanding and rude. The wait times were long, but that is no excuse for abandoning common courtesy. The situation was out of Pat’s control, and being rude to him will do nothing to speed things up; in fact, it’s more likely that being rude to Pat will result in never receiving a drink at all.

Some alumni could only tell me how much better the school was when they attended. I see no good that can come from telling a current student this. Whether it’s true or not, we can’t help that we are only experiencing Thunderbird now. Telling us this only makes us feel worse about the coming changes that we have no control over. 

I also overheard a conversation between a few alumni about Regional Night. This particular group seemed to think it was ridiculous that we tried to represent the whole world at the event rather than choosing a specific region. I specifically heard the following: “I mean, they served tacos next to pasta and spring rolls. Who would want that? It was gross.” I can’t imagine how any students that worked on the planning and set up of regional night must have felt if they were in the vicinity and heard this. The final regional night took an enormous amount of manpower and time to make for an incredible, unforgettable night. If these alumni had asked current students about this instead of complaining to each other, they would have learned that the reason the whole world was chosen instead of one region is because it was the last Regional Night to ever occur on this campus. The students wanted to pay tribute to as many regions as possible to celebrate the many cultures that have passed through the Glendale campus.

It was extremely disappointing to hear these things. I had been so excited about the opportunity to meet Thunderbirds that had come before me and to hear their stories and experiences. Although the majority of my interactions were not like this, I experienced enough negative incidents to cast a small shadow over my memories of the weekend.

If alumni truly loved their time at Thunderbird, some of these attitudes need to change. Negativity and rudeness are not helping the school or current students in any way. Yes, the move to downtown Phoenix is not ideal. Yes, things are different in some ways than when many alumni attended. But it’s time we all learn to accept the things we cannot change. There is nothing we can do now but try to make the best of an unfavorable situation, and spreading negativity is not the way to do that.

Many of these issues can be resolved if we all work on speaking with intention. Complaints can be turned into constructive criticism if they are formed as questions or expressed positively. If Thunderbird was truly better when you attended it, rather than simply complaining about the changes, ask yourself, what are you actively doing to get it back to where you think it should be? If you’re talking to a current student, tell them what you loved about Thunderbird when you were there, and ask if there are any organizations or activities like that now. If not, encourage students to start them. Rather than complaining that Regional Night encompassed the entire world instead of just one region, ask a current student why they chose to do this. If it’s taking a while to get a drink, maybe try passing the time by introducing yourself to and getting to know the people around you instead of yelling at Pat.

Alumni-student relations could be greatly improved if these simple steps are taken. I hope that at future events, alumni will be more conscious of their words and the ears in the near vicinity. We can all work on speaking in a way that contributes to positive change, rather than just stirring the pot. Words can be damaging, and it’s important to be conscious of that.

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