The power of words

What you say matters. Too often people forget how much influence their words can have. Whether a word said in jest, a whisper said too loud, a praise for a friend’s accomplishment, or a compliment to stranger- your words have influence.

Last week was a hard week. I was exhausted and pushed to the edge with all walls closing in. A weekend of calm restored my energy, and I approached the week with newfound vigor. Still, partway through my morning I could already feel my energy draining. I went into the gym for the afternoon training sessions I lead for our study and got everything setup to supervise our subjects. Thirty minutes can be a really long time for the subjects to just walk in silence on a treadmill, so I usually chat with them. Today’s story time included exchanging stories of training dogs (to which I shared my battle of effectively training my Nana’s dog, only to realize I had NOT effectively trained my Nana–I’ll share story below).

I finished training my subjects for the day and started packing up my equipment when this woman who was exercising nearby motioned to me. “I hope you factor in your entertainment when you look at the results to your study. Surely they wouldn’t go as far without you chatting with them so nicely like you do. I know your voice keeps me going over here. Such a good voice. Makes me smile.”

And with just those few words, she changed my day. I didn’t know her. Sure, I had seen her around the gym as I trained people-never really noticing that she kept moving to treadmills closer and closer (she confessed this today)- but we had never spoken before. She isn’t a friend or even an acquaintance, but her words had power. Her words made my day just a little brighter.

She inspired me today. She inspired this blog post and she inspired my words. I only have a little bit of time left in NC before I start the process of my next grad adventure. Only a little more time being within easy reach of all these friends I’ve made over the last 17 years. I don’t always have the right words, and I don’t always choose to use them, but for the rest of this year I’m going to try. Try to make a difference in someone’s day with just a word.

Your words have power. Use them well and use them wisely.


For those interested, here is the training my Nana’s dog story. I have become the token dog whisperer (at least in my Nana’s eyes). I have always had a knack for training animals so when my Nana got Diego ( a perky little too smart for his own good Havanese puppy), she enlisted my assistance in teaching him some fun tricks. She went to puppy class and got sit and stay (and sometimes come) down fairly well. So every time I go home to visit, I make it my mission in that three-five day span to teach Diego something new.

My favorite trick is “bang bang.” The classic make a gun with your thumb and index finger and play shoot your dog as it pretends to die. This was not the easiest trick, nor was Diego the easiest pupil as for days this dog withstood about 20 bang-bangs each time before eventually “dying.” Hard work paid off, however, and I eventually got him to die on cue. Feeling quite proud of myself, I call my Nana in and show her the trick. She loves it. Loves it so much she runs him through the sequence at least 4 or 5 times right then. I fly back to NC feeling incredibly accomplished.

A few weeks later Christmastime hits and I fly home again. Before anything else Nana says she must show me how well she’s kept up with bang bang. Sure enough as soon as she raises her hand and begins the command, Diego is already flopping over. Nana hands him over to me to teach him a new trick and I oblige. Before I begin work on “crawl,” I decide to run him through his others (sit, lie down, etc). As soon as I call him over and begin a command however, the little rat rolls over and plays dead. I drag him to his feet and start to say sit, but again he goes straight to the ground. I call Nana over and show her and she just giggles and gives him a treat remarking on how adorable he looks. Houston we have a problem. I try to explain to Nana that he can’t get a treat when he does the wrong trick–even if he does the wrong trick well. I explain the reasoning and wander off to put my suitcase up. I come back downstairs and hear her asking him to sit again. Peeking around the corner I see him flat on his side “dying” dramatically. Nana grabbed a treat; “well, that’s not what I asked but you did a good job.” Well, I got the dog trained anyway.