“Words are powerful. Words change lives. Words and ideas change the world” – Bryant H. Mcgill
As an avid writer and reader, I find words to be a beautiful thing. I perceive every word to be like a unique shade of color, which can be used to paint all kinds of images on the rich and fertile canvas of our imagination. While pictures can capture poignant moments in a story, it’s only words that can bring out the rich narratives in its entirety.
I also take the usage of words pretty seriously. Although they are wonderful tools, when improperly wielded, they can cause a lot of pain and destruction. Like a double-edged sword, our words can be used as a force for good or evil. Both Hitler and Martin Luther King were powerful orators who moved people with their words, but one was driven by a dark intent, while the other was driven by light.
From early on, we need to develop a “word-consciousness” and be mindful of the impact that our words have on others. However, with the advent of social media and smart phones, brevity and a casual, airy and breezy form of interaction has become the norm. We think that using slang and swear words makes us look “cool” and “hip”, when really it’s a sign of a lack of creativity and laziness with words.
The news that we ingest has increasingly moved away from typographic-focused press sites such as the New York Times to the image-based reporting style of Buzzfeed. We now prefer our news to be short and sweet with lots of imagery and catchy sound bites. Instead of long-winded titles, we now watch long-winded shows on Netflix or hop around the millions of videos available on YouTube.
I recently completed a popular online copy writing course where the experts encouraged us to dumb down and simplify our language when writing so that we can sound more relatable to people. As someone who likes the “proper” way of speaking and writing, I think it’s sad that we now live in a global culture where using tasteful and carefully chosen words is considered to be too stuffy and archaic.
Call me old-fashioned, but I miss the thoughtful articulation, grace and class that was displayed by some prominent figures during the yesteryears. Whenever I listen to the past interviews of Audrey Hepburn, Princess Diana, Cary Grant and Jacqueline Kennedy, I can’t help but admire how they paced themselves so that they could express themselves in a way that was refined yet convincing.
Now some of you might argue, saying that these mannerisms do not reflect on your individuality and/or your cultural background. I totally respect everyone’s individual style of communicating with others, but if you want to have a major impact and influence on others, you will need to master the art of communication, and a big part of that involves being able to choose the right words to express yourself.
There is a way to stay true to your unique and authentic voice while tapping into the power of words. The ability to encapsulate a moment in nouns and verbs, adjectives and adverbs is like a superpower. As a verbal virtuoso, you’ll be able to make great strides in your career and personal life. Strong and effective communication can bring you a combination of happiness, profit and creative satisfaction.
Just think of all the literary giants such as Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, J K Rowling and Ernest Hemingway. Each one of these revered wordsmiths had their own distinct flavor of written expression, but they all had the talent of using words to create vivid imagery, evoking a range of emotions within us.
Or consider dynamic speakers such as John F Kennedy, Maya Angelou, Winston Churchill, Susan B Anthony and Barack Obama. Along with their perfect tone of voice, they spoke words that stirred our souls and inspired us to take action towards making the world a better place to live in.
But why is it that words matter so much to us? It’s because words are heavily laced with meaning and energy. Physicists like Nikola Tesla and Einstein have actually proven that thoughts, feelings and emotions each have a distinct energetic vibration and play an important role in shaping our reality.
Dr Masaru Emoto, who conducted the famous water crystal experiments, proved that words can have a transformative impact on a molecular level. When words like “joy, love, gratitude” were taped on water containers, frozen and observed under a microscope, the crystals looked like beautiful snowflakes. When words like “hate and fear” were used, the crystals appeared to be asymmetrical and disfigured.
You can feel the power of words whenever you pray, listen to the lyrics of a moving song, read poetry or exchange words of love and affection with another. Being immersed in this verbal flow will instantly boost your personal vibration. On the other hand, when we utter words of anger, hate and disgust, we can sense the disconnection from the light within us and our energy plummeting to lower frequencies.
You don’t need to be a literary scholar or go to finishing school to write and speak well. You can upgrade the quality and range of your words by incorporating these simple practices into your daily life:
- Expand your vocabulary: Total vocabulary size varies greatly from person to person but typically, a person uses approximately 5,000 words in speech, and double that in writing. A college-educated native speaker can have a vocabulary as large as 80,000 words! Why the big difference? Because college graduates have been exposed to more words and tend to be comfortable with the idea of learning and synthesizing new information. We can mimic this behavior by engaging in activities that’ll grow our vocabulary and increase our fluency. The easiest way to learn new words is by reading high-quality material, but we can also listen to audio books or download free apps that feature new words every day.
- Appreciate the art of language: The various rhythms and flow of speaking and writing make it almost like an art form. That’s why people love books that have been carefully laced with compelling descriptors or show-stopping movie dialogues (“here’s lookin’ at you kid!”). Just as how we appreciate a good painting, sculpture or a play, we can train ourselves to acknowledge the perfect usage of words, especially if they have an emotional impact on us and those around us. You can become a patron of languages by soaking in the beauty of a well-written book, poem, movie script or the lyrics of song.
- Be more mindful of the words you use: Our words are the only medium through which we can connect with others and convey our authentic feelings and thoughts. Our friends, family and partner have no other way of understanding us besides what we express to them. For this reason, we must assume responsibility when it comes to the things that we say to others. This requires us to manage our internal state and maintain balance, especially during crucial conversations. All of us have blurted out hurtful things in anger, which we have later regretted. The truth is that better and more appropriate words flow through us when feel stable and centered within. So the next time you open your mouth or write an email, take a deep breath to clear out your mind, check in with your emotions, and clarify the intent of your communication and what effect you would like it to have on the person at the other end.
- Protect yourself from harmful words: Vulgarity and swear words can offend some people, including me. I remember attending a stand-up comedy show of a famous American comedian who I expected would be a bit crass. But it ended up being a bit too much for me and I had to walk out. His act was filled with sexual innuendo and expletives, which overshadowed the humor. Besides crude comedians, we may come across people with an offensive and aggressive manner of speaking, which could disturb our peace of mind. If there’s someone in your immediate environment who puts you down and makes you feel bad about yourself, consider building some boundaries or cutting them out of your life. I’ve written extensively on how to deal with these toxic individuals, in this post. Words are potent, and having someone spew words like venom on you will surely have a negative impact on your self-esteem.
Words make the most unknowable concepts knowable to all of us – all stories, ideas and creative insights are birthed through words. Like a dormant seed, words will nourish it with the right context, meaning and purpose; ultimately, it helps us express our soul’s essence and connect with our human nature.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Do you believe that your words matter? How conscious are you about the words that you use in your daily life?