The Power of Words

There are so many individual events to catch up on my blog (for instance my sister’s entire visit), but I feel it’s time for a post that’s not simply a recap on my every day world. So here goes nothing…or something.

I have recently been pondering the power of words. They can carry so much weight and yet they flow off the tongue with such ease that their strength is often forgotten. Words can seamlessly bring people together, clear the murky waters of misunderstandings, and create a connection in people with the most diverse backgrounds imaginable. They are amazing. These simple words that I’m typing right now are conveying thoughts and emotions that would otherwise remain trapped in my head. Spoken language is incredible.

Since being in Australia I’ve had countless moments where I am simply in awe of language.  Words can vary so dramatically language to language, country to country and even just person to person. A word spoken by one person can be entirely flipped in pronunciation, emphasis and even meaning when spoken by someone else. It amazes me how how someone from France or Italy can take even the most bland English words and turn them into something poetic, almost lyrical. There’s a flare to the words that I just don’t seem to have with my own language. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’ve worn mine out. I have spoken the same words (probably repeating the same few thousand fairly regularly) for 25ish years. Maybe that’s why a new language is so exhilarating–new words to describe the same experiences. But it goes beyond that even, because oftentimes through another language we discover new ways to describe things we never had a word for.

I’m not quite there yet with my second language. I’m still simply trying to learn words to describe my every day habits (yes, I’m finally past the “teach me the dirty words” stage of learning French—though, I am very fluent in several such phrases). My friends that have mastered at least two languages, however, get to reap the benefits of a nearly infinite volcabularly. They can just switch back and forth, French to English, to find the absolute BEST pieces of each to describe life. They call it Franglish and fight against it, but I call it impressive and dare I say, superpower-ish. Fight it all you want, but I would LOVE to have an entirely new volcabularly at my disposal. I have always loved words, and consistently try to challenge myself to use those “SAT” words I studied so much in high school, but that’s me just having some fun. Oh how I wish I paid more attention in my French classes.

But, I digress. The point is that language is incredibly powerful and can literally make or break connections. For instance, if my international friends here had never bothered to learn English, there’s just no way we’d be able to communicate effectively enough to forge a deep meaningful friendship. I mean, don’t get me wrong, our communication isn’t perfect. Even now, we have many nights where we spend hours playing charades with each other, only it’s not a game, it’s reading a recipe, and it’s not just gestures, it’s playing with words and the emPHAsis until we have the ah-ha moment of comprehension. But really, these moments just offer some comedic relief to relationships already built on so much more. I won’t say all of human interaction and meaningful connections hinges on spoken word, but I will say the ability to speak and share thoughts and emotions can create a truly powerful connection between individuals.

As with most things in life however, this power presents itself as a double-edge sword. Along with the ability to connect, build and bond comes the ability to tear down, separate and destroy. It is so easy to think a thought, say a word, and be forever free of it. But words aren’t words by just being spoken. They gain meaning, power and strength by being heard. And the perspective and context in which they are heard can dramatically influence their power. Words spoken in haste do not always disappear so hastily from the listener’s ears .Words can leave someone quickly in anger, but stay with another, resurfacing and replaying for years to come. An earnest jest could tug at the deepest insecurities of a friend. You truly never know the lasting effect your words could have on someone, so all you can do is assume the best.

Assume everyone has the best memory. Assume your words will forever be stamped in the story of their lives. Assume your words are so influential and powerful that they could literally change the world. Because you know what, for better or for worse…They can.

Choose carefully




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.