The Power of Words

You’re doing a wonderful job! You’re stupid! Thank you so much! Thanks for nothing.

Yep. Words have power. I’ve always known it, but recently I’ve had a crash course reminder. As a child, they tell us, “Sticks & stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Let’s call that cliché what it is….an absolute LIE! Words may not cause physical pain, but they can cause mental & emotional pain. Anyway, I figured I’d share my experience to help you avoid getting on the wrong roller coaster ride in life.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email. There was one sentence that didn’t hit me right. Instead of focusing on the overall message in the email, my mind fixated on the one sentence. Those who know me well…know that I tend to think, think, and think some more on things. My methodical personality can be a great asset sometimes, but my skill in fixating and overthinking would definitely NOT be one of those assets.

As days passed, that sentence taunted my thoughts. It invaded my dreams. I pondered often going to speak to the sender about the one sentence, but alas…I’m also..51 and menopausal. I’ve reached that point in life where sappy commercials make me cry. Inspirational FB posts make me teary. Sad or sweet movies, well give me your box of tissues. [Perhaps it’s payback for making fun of Mom during her crying spells when we watched “Little House on the Prairie.”] Anyway, each time I had myself ready to speak to the sender, my eyes would water. A couple times…I even….ugly cried [During these moments, I remind myself it’s Eve’s fault that I’m a moody emotional roller coaster.]

On Tuesday afternoon, the misinterpreted sentence mixed with a huge self-annihilation of my skillset. I wrote out my thoughts due to my inability to speak without breaking down. I then….realizing that my emotions were a tidal wave of crazy, asked a friend to read it and either offer edits/revisions or advise me to delete or send. He read it and offered feedback. Then, I hit send. The next day I received a response. Today, a face-to-face conversation took place.

Words misinterpreted. Happens a lot in writing. The reader can’t ascertain the feelings/thoughts guiding the words. As I walked away from the conversation, it was as if a huge boulder was off my shoulders. My breathing had calmed.

I say all that to simply say…when writing….read and reread before sharing. I’ve unintentionally disrespected others with my reactive nature. It’s never my intent. If you’re not sure how it comes across….ask a proofreader to check.

Relationships are too important to allow words to mar them. Because I misinterpreted a line in an email, my Jodi-outlook was marred by doubt and negative self-talk. Since I blew up the message of one sentence, my smile faded for a bit.

Your words have power. Written words can be misinterpreted easily. One of the ways I teach this is with the word “whatever” and the phrases “Let’s go” and “That’s crazy.” I model saying the word/phrase with one tone of voice or facial expression. Then, I ask my students if they could say the same word/words where it would mean something totally different. Try it.

Let’s face it. Words matter. Make yours count. May they show care and concern or even comic relief rather than being caustic and cutting.

Words are powerful. What do yours say?

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