Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a phrase I can recall as a child. I am sure there are a lot of people who can recall saying or hearing that phrase too. It is used as a defense mechanism when one is feeling intimidated, threatened, or bullied. And words are generally used during these types of aggression’s.
Words are objects until we pull them out of our tool belt and unleash them. We combine one word with another and form an opinion, an idea, a plan, stories, and so on. They create thoughts and emotions, and from there, we have the power to bring them to life. They have the power to lift someone or bring them down.
The words we choose can create our mood, and our mood can determine the words and tone we use. The emotion of the person speaking and the emotion of the person on the receiving end will decide if the words hurt or help. I can be a great mood, but if the person I am talking to is having a rough day, the message is going to be received differently than intended.
So how do we use our words to help ourselves and others? Start with being mindful and set aside time to reflect. After a conversation, reflect on the words you used and the impact they had. What was the result? How did the words you chose help to achieve the goal? Do a mood check before having a conversation or going into a meeting. If you are already feeling an emotion that isn’t serving you well, that is likely to come out in the words you use. Ask yourself, “is the emotion I am feeling going to help me?” If not, maybe it’s a good idea to postpone the conversation. Don’t have time to delay it, pause, and think about something that will create an emotion that will serve you better.
All emotions are normal and have a purpose. You can learn more by watching this quick, less than 2 minutes, video created by Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. The video refers to students; I ask that you also add “I am” and “we are” to the statements.
Learning to recognize, label, and choose the emotion that will serve you best will ultimately help you choose the words that will help promote your cause or reach your goals. Not sure how to label what you are feeling? Learn more in the book Permission to Feel by Marc Brackett, Ph.D., Director of Center for Emotional Intelligence at Yale.
One final thought to consider is, if you hear the “Sticks and Stones” rhyme, this could be a signal that someone is feeling threatened and is trying to protect themselves. It may be a sign to intervene.
Words are a container of energy – they have power and should be used to reach our goals and inspire others. They need to be respected.
What do you want to do with your words?
Stay curious, and have a great week!