You would think a professional speaker would know better.
The words we speak to ourselves and others can have a tremendous impact for good or for harm.
Here are some of the ways our words can make a positive difference:
- To support others: When we can genuinely acknowledge how people are seeing things and how strongly they are feeling, others tend to feel that there is someone who understands or, at least, is trying to, and they are not going through the challenges alone.
Supportive actions are also important – practical support or simply being with people who are going through challenges, listening to them, rather than trying to make them feel better.
In workplaces, team members tend to very much like it when their leader listens to their challenges and asks them, “How can I support you with this? And they are prepared to back up those words with actions to address their concerns.
- To make people feel good: I recall one miserable workplace I worked in years ago. One colleague stood out as different due to her positivity. When I asked her why she wasn’t miserable like the rest of us, she said that each day she tried to make a difference to just one person – to make them laugh or feel good about themselves. A great example for all of us.
Don’t you love those friends and workmates who encourage you or make you laugh? And through their words and actions make you feel appreciated for who you are and for the work you do?
While it is nice to get positive feedback from our friends and peers at work, positive feedback from our leaders seems especially important.
- To strengthen a relationship: Given that we are all human, our words are going to be hurtful from time to time. There aren’t many of us who have never complained, blamed, criticised, or lost our temper.
But we also know that in healthy relationships our words can strengthen a relationship. Relationships researcher, John Gottman, says that family members and colleagues are regularly making bids for connection, empathy, celebration, laughter, consideration and appreciation.
Gottman says that while there are always challenges in relationships, in healthy relationships, people tend to respond well with their words and actions 83% of the time. And, of course, such actions need to be reciprocated.
- To focus our thoughts: A nice tradition we have at dinnertime in our family is talking about the highlights of our day, things that made us laugh, or something we feel good about. While we are fine about also talking about challenges, talking about the highlights helps to keep the challenges in perspective.
I have a strong belief that even in the middle of significant challenges, there are often moments of joy, things to be grateful for. If we are not careful, we can live our entire lives, not appreciating or celebrating these moments.
- To create our reality: Here I think of a friend who when asked how he is, tends to answer, “I am fantastic!” He says that when he first started doing this, he wasn’t always that great.
But with practising gratefulness for what is right in his life, what started as ‘fake it until I make it’, has now become completely genuine. Even on challenging days, he says, quite sincerely, “I am grateful to be alive!”
Our words can also be used to change the reality of our relationships – working through difficulties and repairing relationships, rather than avoiding discussion.
I encourage you to notice the words you are speaking to yourself and to others.
Are your words having a positive impact on others?
And are they taking you in the direction that you want to go?
Quote of the week
“One kind word can change someone’s entire day”.