Words are very powerful. They can tear you down, build you up, and even convince you to do some crazy things. Within my Servant Leadership Masters program, we talk a LOT about awareness. Being aware of your thoughts and how they affect you. Being aware of how you present yourself and what you say. And most importantly, being aware of others around you and their non-verbal communication. We have done SO much reading, writing and exercises on this topic it is almost overkill. BUT, in the past year, I have felt so much more aware to the point where it is disturbing. No joke, I feel like I have an extra spidey sense or something. I have always felt that I am a pretty aware person, but this program has really taken me to a whole new level. What does this have to do with anything?
Well, in my upgraded awareness I have picked up on things that really just plain bother me. I almost wish I could UN-notice them, but I know it is an incredibly useful tool for helping others, so I need to suck it up. I notice the presence of my thoughts and feelings more than ever before, I notice when others stop listening, when they are about to interrupt, when they are feeling upset or uncomfortable, the change in body movement when something sensitive is brought up, I notice so much more about myself and others.
I have also noticed that those who seem to not be very self-aware at all, are more likely to use words without thinking. We have all been there. Caught up in our emotions and in the moment, we say negative things, we send that email that maybe we shouldn’t have, or we vent to somebody we shouldn’t. There has been some recent events at AU, that have caused many students to be upset. So instead of voicing their opinion in a productive and respectful way, they have been filling up their Twitter and Facebook feeds with awful, terrible words. I monitor student social media to make sure my student ambassadors are not taking part in negative banter about the school, so if it were up to me I would ignore it all together, but I cannot. I think many in the younger generation don’t quite understand that words are now more powerful than ever before. They will forever follow us on places like Facebook and Twitter. I cannot help but be saddened by how these students portray themselves to their peers, future employers etc.
It is not just on social media of course. I witness the poor use of words in my family, in my work place, among my friends and even I am guilty myself in my own relationship. Why are we so quick to be mean? Why do we use our words to hurt? Does it make us feel better about ourselves? Why are we not more careful when we speak to others?
This could be in the form of an email at work sent behind somebody’s back, instead of confronting them. This could be office banter to talk negatively about another co-worker. This could be saying negative statements about a friend to another friend. Or maybe it is just raising your voice or using a disrespectful tone. Doesn’t matter what it is, it is not okay.
Speak up, but speak kindly and genuinely. It is true that sometimes words that need to be said still hurt, but that doesn’t mean you cannot be respectful about them. It does not matter how frustrated you are, how enraged you are, posting hurtful words on social media, in an email or blurting them out before thinking can have an incredibly everlasting effect. Our words should inspire, educate, motivate…not destroy others.
You may say your words quickly and never think of them again, but their effect will last forever. Whether that is good or bad, is entirely up to you. Choose your words wisely.