Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Words Are Powerful

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” That’s an idea that many parents have taught their children so that they wouldn’t feel so bad when they are attacked with words. That’s really a stupid idea. When we’re reviewing the events of our life we often think of things that were said to or about us that remains to this day as a painful memory. Words are extremely powerful and what is worse, their meanings vary from person to person. They vary because we acquired the words in ways unique to us and can’t know how that word really means to the person who is using it without extended contact. The kind of contact that happens over time and in a variety of circumstances is necessary to acquire an idea of how others mean when they use their words.

Most of us know someone who uses words to demonstrate that they are “brilliant.” They seem to use words to prove that they know the words. That communication then, might be perceived an expression of superiority and may not be very friendly or useful. Beebe, Beebe and Ivy point out that we need to adapt our communication to the person(s) with whom we are attempting to establish a connection.

It makes more sense to choose and use words based on what you know and what you have determined they know when attempting to communicate. This communication has a different goal: to establish a connection rather than demonstrate “brilliance.” Many things can impact word choice: culture, context, gender, age, class, race, religion to list a few. In short, words are powerful and require considerable knowledge and focus in order to select the proper ones at the proper time.

Each of us can recall a time that “misunderstandings” came up because of word choice. We wish we could call back some things that we have said. Unfortunately, we can only attempt to reduce the hurt of badly chosen words. We cannot call them back. We each have memories that work very well.

How do you prepare for an important situation? Do you ever practice what and how you’re going to say something? Have you discovered over time how to say some things in a more productive way? Do we sometimes view close acquaintances or friends as folk we don’t need to be concerned about when choosing our words? What are some of the risks involved with this kind of behavior?

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