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September 16, 2013 / Dale Melchin

The Power of Words

The power of words is something that is often ignored in our society.  The fact of it is it shouldn’t.  This applies in three areas, how we talk to others, how others talk to us, and how we talk to ourselves.  Let me tell you a story.  In fourth grade I was a crossing guard.

Part of my duties as a crossing guard was raising the American Flag on a schedule that I shared with other students.  Well, for some reason I had a hard time putting up the flag and getting the rope tied around the fixture that held the rope.  I had to have the teacher in charge of the guards help me with it several times until I got it.  Well, one day, I was at recess before school and a bunch of kids started badgering me about my skills as it related to the flag.  At first, I just walked off and played on the monkey bars.  Eventually though they got other students in on it, and they literally surrounded me chanting “Having trouble putting up the flag?”

Well, I flew into a rage.  I picked one of the kids out and socked him.  Now later on he claimed that he wasn’t one of the ones doing it, but I insisted that he was in on it.  Nevertheless, the event impacted me in such a way that I still remember it.  It is a great example of the power our words have on ourselves, and others.

Let us consider the three areas that words have power.  How we talk to or about others, how others talk to us, and how we talk to ourselves.

How we talk to or about others

If you’ve lived long enough you understand that the power of an encouraging word can give you the strength to keep pressing on.  Or, it can be the thing that breaks you in a particular endeavor.  Now the net impact of our words has an impact on how well we’ve cultivated positivity or negativity in our life.  Never the less, even if you are a positive person, the wrong word from the right person can be enough to collapse the proverbial deflector shields of positivity and send you reeling.  Conversely, the right word from the right person can be enough to re-energize you and bring all systems back on line.  That’s why in my previous post I talked about the importance of having high energy, low maintenance people in your life.

The community and the family can be refuges where we are surrounded by positive and affirming words that energize us.  This is why all of us must watch what we say and how we say things to each other.  Even if you have to confront someone about something, it is possible to do it a kind an affirming way and make them feel better and hopeful as a result.

We also need to consider how we talk about others.  This one is particularly difficult, especially if you are employed by a company.  It can be very easy to join others in running a boss or a coworker down if they are not present.  It is best to defend the other person, or just walk away from the discussion.  Your words may reinforce old paradigms of the person who is not present if they are negative, or tear down the old paradigm if they are positive.  Or it may incur the wrath of the person(s) who are running the absent person down.  Regardless, it is best to stay committed to truth and believing the best about others.  The point is, you never know the impact your words may have.  May we all learn to realize this.

How others talk to us

We all know of someone who has nearly broken us emotionally, or rebuilt us with their words.  We need to recognize the power of this as well.  If someone says something negative about us, we have a few options.  The first is to believe it and awfulize about it.  This gives them the victory and cripples your ability to make progress because of your collapsed self confidence.  The second is to disregard it.  This is done the best when you’ve created that shield of positivity.  Someone fires the phasers of pestilent prose at you, your shield absorbs the vindictive verbalization, rendering you unharmed.  The third, is to consider their paradigm.  This is also best approached with the shield.  It also requires a lot of self-awareness.  Maybe you have a tendency to be overbearing, or you’ve done something that annoys them.  That is still more reasonable than letting your confidence get collapsed, and it creates opportunities for personal growth.

Also consider the positive side of it.  You were down, you talked to one of those high energy friends.  They listened, asked questions, and told you, it’s going to be OK, and they gave you the reasoning for it.  A good example of this comes from Michael Hyatt in his Podcast “Watch your Mouth.”  He talked about a time where he went through a business failure and he called his dad.  Here is a direct quote from the transcript.

“I remember one time in my career when I was going through a horrific business failure. I’ve talked about that on this podcast before. My partner and I had just lost everything we had. We didn’t have two nickels to rub together, and I didn’t even know how I was going to provide for my family. Everything was dark. I was devastated. I was discouraged. I was almost despondent.

I called my dad just to get his advice, and I’ll never forget what he said. He listened to my story (great listener), and when I finished, he said, “Son, you’re going to be all right. You’re smart. You’re hardworking. You’re blessed with a great wife. This is all going to work out just fine.” I can’t tell you what that did to lift my spirits. It was like a Red Bull IV for my soul. It gave me the energy to hang in there and keep fighting, and it gave me the grace I needed to do the next right thing for my family, for my business, and for my future” (Michael Hyatt, This is Your Life, Episode 63, Watch Your Mouth).

The point is, we wield tremendous power with our words.  We can build the City of the minds of others, or in a single tactical strike, lay their emotional well being to waste.  We must learn to harness that power, for good and for only good.  Let’s get on to the last point.

How we talk to ourselves

More important than how we talk to others, or how others talk to us, is how we talk to ourselves.  I am deadly serious about this one.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again.  I would say one of my biggest problems is my tendency to awfulize.  According to the Oxford Dictionary to awfulize is to imagine (a situation) to be as bad as it can possibly be.  Something bad happens to us, we have a choice.  We can come up with an intelligent response to it and experience mild levels of frustration, or disappointment, or we can say its the end of the world.

It’s particularly difficult for me to write this because I am a recovering scarcity thinker.  Scarcity thinking is some of the worst stuff you can get into because it can destroy your results and I’ve experienced it firsthand.  Nevertheless, when you’ve experienced multiple setbacks, if you aren’t trained for how to handle difficulty it’s very easy to awfulize your way into a dark place and lose all objectivity.  That is why it is so important to us when something bad does happen, we reframe the meaning of that event.

More importantly than that though, is to fill your mind with positive and affirming thoughts.  In other words you have to tell yourself, “I can do this.” And believe it.  The only magic to it is how the subconscious responds to it and powers the rest of our consciousness.  If you tell yourself the right things and believe it, eventually you will start to embody it and you’ll start winning at life.  I know of several speakers who go through affirmations before they speak.  The way I do it is to meditate and then read inspiring material and listen to inspiring music.

The most important ongoing conversation we can have with ourselves.  If we are kind, gentle, and encouraging to ourselves, we can do, nearly anything.  Just make sure its in your skill set and part of your vision.  If you are the opposite, you put yourself in grave danger.  Feeding on positive material will help us overcome negativity and self actualize so we can become all that we can be.  That is why you must talk to yourself in the most positive way possible and think of negative events in the correct light.

What has been your experience with the power of words?  How do you talk to yourself?

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