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  • Don Railey

The Power of Words


Have you heard the children’s saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me?” – sounds cute – but it’s just not true. I saw a couple of other versions recently, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can break my heart” – and “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never leave me.”

Think about this: How you say something is just as important as what you say – if not more important. If your goal is to communicate – the giving and receiving of information – then how something is said will greatly increase or decrease the possibility of that “word” being received. If you simply want to “tell somebody off” – or just give out information – or “get something off your chest” – then who cares how you say it? But, don’t be surprised if others do not receive it at all. And, if it is said in such as way that destroys or offends the other person, you have alienated yourself from others, and what good have you caused?

Stop and think! What do you want to say? What do you want to communicate? Is what you want to say going to help or tear down? Are you seeking a change in behavior, or are you just wanting to vent? Then your words matter and how you say them is vitally important.

We live in the age of instant messages – the text – the Tweet – it is so impersonal, and yet sometimes very divisive – because people “read into those words” many different intents and interpretations.

I read recently a statement by Rudyard Kipling – “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” – Let that sink in – think – words can heal, words can paralyze, words can make things better or worse. Every conflict and war in history has been started by WORDS --- today, every conflict and struggle begins with words being said and received. Why? I heard the late Dr. Richard D. Dobbins, psychologist and counselor, say years ago – “we do not live with the events of our lives, but with the interpretation we place on the events of our lives”. What he was saying, the interpretation of things and statements is what we live with – how we see it – how we talk to ourselves about it. So – words and how they are used is critical to us today.

I read an article in Success magazine, written by Nido Quebein, where six ideas were listed to help us speak well: (1) Get your thinking straight (actually, sounds like “think before you speak”, (2) Say what you mean (that’s refreshing), (3) Get to the point (some people struggle to “land the plane” of their thought), (4) Be concise – don’t waste words, (5) Be real and natural, and (6) Speak in images – use words and phrases which paint a picture for the hearer to grasp and better understand.

Try working on what you say – then thoughtfully construct the words and the delivery of those words, which will lead to maximum receptivity. Oh yes, keep that attitude in check and your emotions as well. You can keep your sticks and stones, and watch your words too!


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