Your words, written and verbal, reflect on you. Perhaps this is obvious, but I doubt that many of you have thought about it in the heat of the moment. Be honest, have you? There are numerous ways of communicating, using words is just one of them. But the words we speak and write constitute a major avenue of our communication. Right?
What do you use words for? Encouragement? Admonition? Correction? Warning? Instruction? Words can communicate feelings, start wars, heal emotional wounds, brings groups together, explain laws, and so on and so on. I, for one, am glad that we have words.
Think how different our world would be if we didn’t have words. We’d have instrumental music, but no classic rock or hip hop or hymns or country. We’d have no best-selling novels. No poems. No greeting cards. No text books. No Bible. No magazines. No plays. No play-by-play announcing of the Super Bowl or the World Cup. And only a handful of cartoons.
Ok, there could be some good consequences of no words. No tax code. No traffic citations. No yelling within the home. No words that hurt the feelings of others. No “junk mail” or spam. In all seriousness, you get the idea. Words can be good or bad. It’s a matter of the words we chose, our timing, our motivation and how others receive the words we write or speak or sing.
I’ve been thinking about words recently for a number of reasons personally and professionally. And I’ve been thinking in particular about how the words we intend for others also reflect on us. You’ve thought about this already, I’m certain.
Have you ever gotten angry and said hateful things you wish you could take back (but couldn’t)? You realize that they are a reflection on you, right? Those who hear your angry words may or may not receive the message as you intended, but either way, your words also provide a reflection of your character.
In a day, week or month, how often do you hear words of true encouragement? How often during these same periods of time do you speak words of true encouragement? Did you realize this is a reflection of your character and those around you? I’m sure you did. But not everyone does.
Words have power. Ever hear the expression “sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words can never hurt me?” It’s a common expression used to help one who’s been blasted by another’s words (in a weak attempt to make the hurt recipient feel better). But it’s not true. Words can hurt. And often do. In fact, words can be incredibly hurtful. So remember that the words you speak and write reflect on what’s inside you. They reflect on your character and your heart. Sometimes that reflection is clear and direct, like when you look into a mirror. Other times the reflection is less clear, like the image you see when looking into a dirty mirror or the image of trees lining a pond that has ripples on it due to a steady breeze.
This week’s picture is taken of a water-color in my house. To the left side of the picture, there appears to be a window. It’s simply a reflection of a window and the front porch. Afternoon light coming through the glass on my front door provided the reflection. It’s a reminder to be aware of the reflection we’re casting by our word choice.
The words you intend for others may be the focus of your message. But be aware that your words are a reflection on you. Think about what you write or say before it comes blurting out of your mouth or you hit “send.” Does it convey the message you intend? Are you saying it in anger? Would you want others to hear or read it?
A few reminders in our digital world:
- Never put in an electronic copy what you wouldn’t want to say to another’s face
- Electronic copy lasts “forever” (texts, emails, chats, electronic surveys)
- Sleep on it (if you still want to say it or send it tomorrow, then ok)
- Ensure your words match your true intention
- If written, consider getting someone else to read it before sending or giving it
Many organizations will soon be doing performance appraisals for 2014. You recognize that any appraisals, reviews or 360 feedbacks you provide on others is a reflection on you, right? I’m not suggesting you be untruthful; I’m simply saying to think about how the words you chose and recognize that, good or bad, they also reflect on you. You can be truthful and direct while still being kind and thoughtful.
What experiences do you have on how another’s words have impacted you? How did the words reflect on the one delivering the message?
As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.
Dr. Robert Gerwig is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.
Photo by Author