What’s your reaction when someone unknowingly inserts a huge high-heeled foot into her mouth when talking to you? My gut reaction is an ugly little feeling that wants to speak words that will make that person feel like an idiot worm. Nice, huh? Polite too! Right.
For instance, “That kid just has a really funny look—big bug eyes and a wide mouth--he looks like an alien. (Confidingly)--You know he has some kind of syndrome or something. He’s just weird. Bless his heart.” Doesn’t that make you want to lie and blurt, “My husband was born with three eyes, 12 fingers and pointy ears, and he had to have multiple operations, but not before other kids made fun of him constantly, so badly traumatizing him that he couldn't stop wetting his bed until just last week,” and watch her backpedal as fast as she can? “Really? I’m so sorry, etc, etc.” And then maybe you gently (or guiltily) counter with "No, not really, but what if?"
It is sobering to me how quickly a person’s true thoughts and attitudes come out in speech. You may have met someone 5 minutes ago, and already you can pick up that they are prejudiced or self-centered or lazy or uncaring—the list can go on. All by what they say and the way it is said.
I know I have stepped on more than my fair share of toes. How embarrassing. And how awful to know that what I say can reveal something ugly that’s in my heart, and that that ugliness can hurt someone else deeply even without me even knowing it.