This past weekend I attend the Landmark Forum. Besides the many personal and professional revelations I went through myself I realized there is real power in language. Not only in the written word which I have known since I was a baby. I have always wanted to be a writer and I have loved escaping into fiction since elementary school. This leaves little doubt in my mind why I started and ended my college career with the same major; English: writing communications and rhetoric. I have always appreciated the power of language in the form of the written word. I love the way certain books can immediately connect on a cerebral level and create in my mind’s eye exactly what the author is trying to portray. Reading books has always been more powerful and visual to me than watching a movie at the theaters or in my own home (don’t get me wrong I adore movies and I have an extensive movie collection but my books eclipse my movie collection by almost 5x the amount). My point initially is using powerful language verbally can have as much of an impact as powerfully written language. This is nothing new of course. We all know the power of language in every aspect of our lives.
We know as parents that we have to be careful how we say things to our children least we convey the wrong message in the language we use. As parents we tell ourselves from the beginning “I am not going to swear around my child” when of course you are normally a “drunken sailor” as my mother use to put it, dropping F-bombs every other word. We know how easily our children can pick up on things we do not want them to because it will reflect on our parenting skills and habits. Of course this will make me “look bad” if someone heard my 4-year-old drop the F-bomb. Which of course because I have told myself it is bad to swear in front of him and worse if he does it and proceeds to do it in public. Therefore I have given this scenario importance and made it “wrong”. I have given it power and by doing so I have than altered how I will communicate with my son. Of course if I managed not to say the “F” word in front of him ever and he still said the bad word in public I would still question myself and still be wrong. Do you see the power?
Not only is language powerful but the meaning we give language is powerful. We have the privilege of living in a world with constant written and spoken communication. We live in a very powerful time. We can alter our own lives on a daily basis which can impact each and every person we come into contact with by understanding the power of how we communicate. If you go about your life knowing the power you hold in language than you can live your life a step ahead of others. You can impact what kind of day you will have at work and how you choose to communicate with those above and below you. A touch, a tone, or a sarcastic comment can make or break a day for anyone. By openly communicating and taking what someone says to you at face value instead of “interpreting” the meaning as we all are prone to do we can alter our very moods and improve our health.
Why would we choose to make ourselves sick over something we cannot control? We can control ourselves and the meaning we give everything. Women are the worst culprits in this. We hear and see meanings in words that were never there. We hear “you look amazing” but see “you normally look awful”. This kind of interpretation can have damaging effects that can last for years. Why would we do that to ourselves? What do we have control over? We have control over our own language and communication. We can control how we “interpret” someone’s language. They are speaking or writing but we can choose to read or hear their communication in any way we want. Why not hear exactly what they are saying? Those rare moments when we finally admit honestly how we feel we are liberated so why not feel that way all the time?
Remember “stick and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me” (The Christian Recorder March 1862). Words only do harm because we allow them too and we give them meaning. We apply what is “right”, what is “wrong” and what is “truth”. If we live by this 19th century nursery rhyme we can live powerfully because we have the power of language and by having power over language we control the meaning language possesses.
- Change your language (crimsonbusinessbooks.wordpress.com)
- Notes on language (notesonlanguage.wordpress.com)