Most of us underestimate the power of our words. We sometimes miss how our words set a tone. A few words can make someone’s day, or shatter it. Words can inspire someone to buy, or to go away without buying. Our words can move someone to do their best work, or to work against us. Your spoken words serve either to build up or to tear down. They serve to empower and inspire, or to disempower and hurt. Words are either life affirming or destructive. For this reason we should choose our words carefully. “The word is the most powerful tool you have as a human…like a sword it has two edges, your word can create the most beautiful dream, or your word can destroy everything around you.” (The Four Agreements, Don Miquel Ruiz)
When you are talking to someone ask yourself this question: “Who am I being and what is the impact of my words on the people around me?” The power of your words lies in the intention behind them. Is it your intention to create a resolution or to be right? Do you intend to help the organization accomplish its mission or to satisfy the need to take someone down? We communicate best when we are clear about who we are and what we intend. This kind of clarity prevents us from saying words that are harmful to ourselves and others. It may prevent us from engaging in harmful gossip and complaining.
Gossip is usually destructive. It is often a careless use of our words. We just aren’t thinking about how we are affecting others. Sometimes gossip is mean spirited and intended to cause hurt. Whether gossip is careless or intentional, it causes pain. We may be hoping for a little humor or self justification, but the results of gossip are anger, suspicion, embarrassment, and fear. These creations of gossip negatively affect morale, service, and productivity. You cannot both care about someone and gossip about them. If you think back to the last time you either heard or offered gossip, it probably didn’t make you feel good. Gossip disempowers us.
Similar to gossip is chronic complaining. Complaining about people and situations makes us feel and look powerless. Managers who complain in front of their employees lose credibility as leaders. Chronic complaining leads us into a dead end street where there is nothing to be done. We become victims who are powerless to change anything. While venting frustrations to a trusted friend can be helpful in releasing negative feelings, complaining to everyone tends to reinforce negative feelings. Like gossip, chronic complaining disempowers us.
Our power to do harm is exceeded only by our power to do good. A simple, sincere apology (given without expectation of return) can heal a relationship. An uplifting word at the right moment can change a life, launch a career, or convince someone to go beyond perceived limitations. By consciously looking for evidence of greatness in others, and by using our words to tell them, we help others to build confidence. When we sincerely speak well of others we uplift ourselves.
There is great power in making the commitment to keeping our words as positive and life affirming as we are able. As an affirming presence our influence grows. We feel better about ourselves. Constant negative speech imprisons us and prevents us from finding joy and success. Developing the habit of speaking well of self and others frees us to enjoy life more. We become a blessing to ourselves and to others.
Our spoken words originate from our thoughts. The best way to increase the positive power of our spoken words is to clean up our thinking. We must become willing to think well of ourselves. Constant self criticism needs to become unacceptable. We free ourselves to think and speak well of others by thinking well of ourselves.
Consider practicing the following:
Affirm life in your thoughts and your words. (To affirm life is to build up, to nurture, to support, and to bless)
Refuse to gossip. Commit to saying only words that are uplifting or helpful to others.
Refuse to listen to gossip. Compassionately tell others it is beneath them to gossip.
Refuse to indulge in complaining about another person.
Refuse to dwell on self critical thoughts. Learn from mistakes and move on.
Intentionally look for positive qualities to think about yourself. Make a list often.
Intentionally look for positive qualities in others. Tell them.
Don’t take the words of others personally. Their words are more about them than about you. Let go of your grudges and your hurts and wish others well. This practice will make you happier.
Do not allow negative emotion to control you. Accept it. Be willing to let it go. Stop feeding it with negative words. Choose words that will refocus you on who you are and what you really want.
Gossip and complaining are distractions and a misuse of your energy. Decide what you really want and apply your energy to it. As you become more life affirming in your thoughts and words you will experience more joy and success, and your sense of well-being will affect others. More people will trust you and want to help you. Your life will change. Affirm life with your thoughts and words and you will find that your organization, your family, your community, and you will benefit greatly.