The Power of (Choice of) Words - the endless possibilities of a powerful force
The simplest, basic structural part of any language: Words. We all know and recognise the importance of words when it comes to communication, of any and all kinds.
Beyond just mere communication, I believe that words are unique elements that we transform into a rich tapestry of human experience. It’s these words that canmake us laugh, can make us cry, and can wound us, or heal us. They offer us hope or devastation. With words, we can make our noblest intentions felt and our deepest desires known. They provide a vehicle for expressing and sharing our experiences with others and ourselves. The words that we attach to our experience become our experience because they form the thread on which we string our experiences themselves.
So, do we really understand and optimise the words we choose? And the power and impact they have? Here’s a quote and its decoding that really got me thinking:
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—'tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.” - Mark Twain
What did Mark Twain really want to convey with this powerful quote?
To get you to start thinking, remember that: the two (a lightning bug and lightning) are nowhere close in comparison. Likewise, did Twain mean that the difference between the right word and the almost right word is huge? And that the impact is nowhere near comparison? I believe so! The takeaway: Be considerate and accurate, or you may convey a totally different meaning in your communication.
There’s more. A lightning bug emits a small flash of light, while a bolt of lightning is a more powerful burst of light. When compared to the types of words we use in our speaking, he could mean: it’s easy for us to find a word that gets the meaning across — but if we can manage to find exactly the right word, we can make the other person think, feel and say “Wow, that’s great. “ A possible increase in the impact by folds!
That articulates the point I’m trying to make - We all have the power of words. We need to wield it right with the RIGHT CHOICE of words!
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE WORDS
My own share of experiences as a professional in diverse roles and as an individual with various dynamics has time and again taught me how it’s super important to pick and choose the words I speak, write and even think. And it’s true that it holds good for all of us in various capacities.
I was looking to capture the essence of my thoughts and happened to find the right words for the same (see what I did there?) - “Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”
THE (WORD) CHAIN REACTION
Words that come out of us, create feelings in those who receive them. The feelings and thoughts that arise out of it form a narrative (intended to include positive and negative connotations here). These personal and societal narratives capture the voice(s) with a potential for change with endless possibilities in the vast universe we call our own.
The catchword ‘relatability’ is indisputable, for conversations and stories alike. Because words that strike a chord connect to build change. Every experiential story/conversation has the power to be a solution to some or other problem in the world. Without the power of words, we would be right where we started. Because our evolving choice of words is constantly representing us.
Words have power. Words are power.
What’s really powerful about words? Why does our linguistic ability influence the scope of our abilities, our identity and now our potential to empathise? How can we truly use words and their power to our advantage?
These are cues for you, but if I were to have a go at it: The power lies in using words to re-empower our perception. At the very foundation, we’ve already established that words have immense power to change perception if placed rightly. It guides our reasoning. So what I mean by ‘re-empower’ is to go beyond sealing ourselves within a linguistic shell of disempowered perception and reach out to what it could mean for those around us and ourselves. Put simply, get a thorough understanding of the words we speak and those we listen to and value their seriousness and impact.
Some of you can call this line of thought looking for the silver lining or relentless optimism. But then again, it’s ironic. Words can often have more than one meaning. However, words do not have the dynamic range and malleability that our interpretation of things does. So, when we give ourselves the leeway to determine an empowering meaning from the happenings via the words we choose, we empower everyone while defining our reality. And that my friend, is a powerful inclusive force with or without rose-tinted glasses.
Beyond mindful, be intentional
I often find myself filtering my words; because I understand what I say will either negatively or positively influence how others and I will feel. Though it’s easy to express what we feel or share what’s on our minds, we need to be very intentional about our words. We’ve always been told to be mindful of our words, but more than that I’ve found that being intentional with your words can do magic. It’s interesting because ‘impact over intent’ holds good here. To understand how intentional you have to be with your words, you start by thinking about the impact they will go on to have. Think before you speak, think after you listen - the right steps to proper perception building as we discussed above! As we try to be a little bit more intentional every day about everything we do, how about including our words in the list starting now? Because no matter who tells what, words and ideas are those powerful forces that CAN change our world - by making it more INCLUSIVE.
Inclusive language = effective words that bring a collective sense of belonging
Words, the importance of which I’ve reiterated enough so far, holds the key to inclusivity. And that’s a need of the hour within our professional and personal realms. The way we speak to each other, with the words we pick, creates a culture in which everyone can feel valued, respected, and included, rather than under-valued, disrespected, and out of place (excluded). In my opinion, this approach to empathetic and inclusive word choice provides a more respectful and accurate view of the real world (we are striving towards) by reflecting social diversity rather than perpetuating stereotypes. It needs to be directed towards avoiding stereotyping or hurting the sentiments of all those based on their age, cultural background, disability, gender, indigenous background or sexual orientation and gender identity. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about being ‘politically correct’. This is about finding words for unspoken feelings which deserve kindness and relevance for everyone in every room we walk into. We may not necessarily ‘walk in somebody else’s shoes’ because not everything can be our lived experience, but that’s where empathy becomes the backbone of inclusivity. And here it starts with chipping away at the idea that alienating people via our words is non-existent or worse yet, acceptable in the first place. It seems small, but the difference it can make is as huge as it can get. Because it is change and any measure of it which makes us more evolved needs to be welcomed with open arms. And it takes courage to open ourselves to change, especially one within us. This is the starting point. What have you changed about the words you use in recent times?