“Did I say the right thing?” “Do they understand what I meant?” These common phrases have crossed our minds many times and may have caused some worry as to how they were received. The words we use have power and weight to them. They are packed full of meaning and connotations, both positive and negative. Words can cause the recipient to feel joy or distress, depending on how they are used. Their influence can be monumental on the receiver and can cause change. According to author Yehuda Berg, “Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity…. Words have energy and power, with the ability to help, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.”
Choosing our words can be instantaneous or intentional. Our sentences can slip out without thinking, or we can put a great deal of thought into them. However, when looking at the impact of our words, it is always best to think about what we are saying, especially given their influence.
According to Dr. Hyder Zahed, a contributor to the Huffington Post, there are specific guidelines people can use. These rules are to “Always speak the truth, avoid exaggerations, be consistent in what you are saying, don’t use double standards in addressing people, don’t use your words to manipulate others, and most importantly, do not use words to insult or belittle anyone.” Think about a time you have been personally hurt by someone’s words or thought, “They shouldn’t have said that.” Now, turn the tables back on yourself and think about a time your words have caused harm. It happens to us all, but these tips, along with the others below, will help you make sure your words have their intended effect.
Use Appropriate Language and Tone –
Our words change depending on whom we are talking to and the situation. For example, your language should be different for a young child, compared to an adult. Make sure your words fit the situation and the person or people you’re talking to. Going back to Dr. Zahed’s advice, your points should be direct and honest. However, honesty doesn’t mean disrespect. If you are arguing with someone, you can still get your point across without offending the person. Also, use the correct tone to match. Yelling never helps. A controlled, stern tone can get the same message through.
Avoid Words that Cause Negativity –
All words have certain connotations and feelings associated with them. Be aware of how someone could take a word, based on what you know about the person. Choose your words with intent.
Delete Certain Words from Your Vocabulary –
Along with connotations, words can mean different things to various people. Someone may understand you to mean one thing, when you really meant the opposite. This confusion can cause unintentional negative feelings or misunderstandings. In the article, “Watch Your Words: 8 Ways to Choose Your Words More Carefully,” we read that researchers have found that a person can be more direct with their thoughts by deleting certain words from their vocabulary. These words include “try, wish, I am, if, should, I can’t, desperate, and luck.” Researchers state these words can possibly open the door to a lack of truth and leave your true meaning hidden from the receiver.
Focus on the Positive and Look for Ways to Create Change –
Disagreements happen, bad choices can be made, and redirection for children may need to be done. Yet, all of these can have a greater and more positive influence if an action-focused approach is taken, for example, by adding more positive words into the conversation, as well as ways to change the situation, disagreement, or behavior for the better. As a teacher, I look for ways to help a student analyze his or her behavior and help change it through the words I use.
The power of words can never be known until they are heard. People will remember what is said and how they felt. The timeless lessons, “Choose your words carefully” and “Think before you speak” will always come into play. Be intentional with your thoughts, focus on the positive, and you may never know, but you may (hopefully) influence others for the better.