Words have the ability to tap into deep emotions, lifting someone to the highest of heights, or making them plummet to the depths of sadness. How we choose our words often has more to do with attempting to convey our own needs, rather than with thoughts of how they will affect the recipient whose ears they fall upon.
At the same time, we do understand the power of words. Why else would we bother with creative writing or use talking therapies to help people get through troubled times?
However, it is in our everyday speech that we are likely to profoundly affect others without meaning to. When we craft a piece of writing we have the power of intention behind our words. We usually have an understanding about the feelings our words will illicit in others.
In our day to day interactions with others we act spontaneously for much of the time, relying on instinct peppered with our views and opinions, to provide us with a base from which to choose our words. Much of the time though, our words tend to flow, rather than seeming as if they have actual thought behind them.
Most of us have been on the receiving end of words that have hurt us. Some of the time it will have been our own interpretation of the words that has provided us with much of the pain, although the person speaking the words will have had a universal understanding of their meaning, and so should have been aware how they could make us feel.
We will have also, probably inadvertently, hurt others with words spoken in haste, or without good judgement on our part. Unless the results of our selfish spilling of words provided us with obvious results that were observable, we may have been left non the wiser.
If you are aware of the power of words and have occasionally been sorry about unwise choices with your own every now and then, chances are that you are sensitive enough not to hurt others in this way too often, and certainly not intentionally. However, if you feel that this has never happened to you, it is likely that you have your head in the clouds, and that you are unaware of how what you say can make others feel.
Perhaps the people who are affected by words that sting more dramatically than others are children. Without a sound knowledge base from which to judge whether adults are being unreasonable or are correct in their actions and speech, children have to believe what they are told by their caregivers.
What is said to you as a child can have a lasting affect on how you feel as an adult. A father who tells his daughter that she isn't pretty, or a mother who tells her son that he is stupid, has let their children down by encumbering them with the burden of low self esteem. The words, which may have been spoken and then not given a second thought by parents, could sit in the minds of their children and surface whenever they are feeling a lapse in confidence, serving to drag their emotions down further.
We can't prevent others from using words that hurt us, but we can make them aware of how their words have made us feel. Using our own words carefully, we can tell careless word users exactly how their choice of words has affected us, and ask them if this result was what they had hoped for.
In most cases this will stem the poison wordsmiths tirade as they contemplate their actions. In some cases it make even make them think twice before letting unkind words tumble in the future.
When it comes to ourselves, we can attempt to keep our own words in check. Thinking before we speak can give us time to craft what it is that we want to say, and to choose the right words to convey our message, remembering that words can be used for empowerment and other positive purposes. Kind, strong and courageous words of beauty have the power to heal, inspire and encourage. If we could all concentrate more on these types of words, the world of communication would be a happier place.