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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Watch What You Say

Everything you say has an impact on others. I’ll never forget the time I was walking through the waiting room at the doctor's office; there was a patient sitting there, looking very unhappy. So I smiled at her as I walked by. On my way back through the waiting room 15 minutes later, she said to me, “thank you for that smile. It brightened my day.” A simple little thing, almost unconscious on my part, and yet it meant so much to her.

That was almost 3 years ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday. That smile changed both of us; it had a positive impact on her, and her reaction had a major impact on me. It made me realize how much we affect each other as we move through our individual lives. And most of the time we’re totally unaware of it.

I can still remember things said to me by teachers at school, and trust me I've been out of school for some time now, but we are wired in such a way that if similar things occur in our lives we go back to hearing what a teacher or someone else said to us. Thats just the way we are.

Words are very powerful. They can affect you long after they’ve been said. They can change the way you see yourself. Words can be bullets or shelters, rocks or loving arms. “I hate you.” “I’ll take care of it for you.” “You are so stupid.” “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
These are simple statements, but each is full of potentially life-changing meaning. You only need to put yourself in the shoes of the listener to know how these words could impact your life. Just think, these kinds of things are spoken every second. With every syllable that comes out of your mouth, you literally have the power to greatly enhance another person’s self-perception, or destroy it.

Some people are seemingly oblivious to the power of their words. They spout and spew, apparently never stopping to consider what those words are doing to the listener. They feel justified in “telling it like it is.” I doubt that we are ever justified in purposely and thoughtlessly causing harm to another with what we say to them.

The absence of words can also have an affect. When someone does not reply to something you’ve said or asked, it is impossible to know what that lack of reply is really saying. Do they just consider what you’ve said to be totally unimportant? Are they too busy to reply?

When I was just starting out in the "real world", I emailed someone who had the same type of position and asked her questions about how she got started, and what was helpful for her in getting clients. I never did hear back from her. That made me think that she just didn’t want to bother with a “newbie.” She’d had the opportunity to help someone else, and possibly to further her own career by generating referrals, just by being helpful. But her lack of response made me decide that she was not someone I would recommend to others.

Be careful what you say. Think about the impact your words will have. Words change people’s lives.