#028 - Words have power. Words can hurt, words can heal, words can inspire and empower. And sometimes you have to eat your words. Join your host Dr. Charles Boyer for some ways to WATCH YOUR WORDS.
Hello and welcome to Keys For New Leaders, a podcast Serving Leaders Serving Others. This is your host, Dr. Charles Boyer – Charlie to you, my friend. If you are a new or newer leader, or are joining this podcast for the first time, a special welcome to you. And, if you are a returning listener, a very warm welcome back! I’m so glad you’re here for this episode. If you haven’t already done so, please take a minute to hit the subscribe button on your audio program, and you’ll receive notices of future episodes as soon as they are published.
Serving Leaders Serving Others is what we’re all about. In this series of podcasts, my goal is to serve you, the leader, helping you serve others through sharing helpful ideas, suggestions, inspiration, insights, encouragement and sometimes a laugh or two to lighten the load along the way. These are ALL keys to your success as a leader. Think of this podcast as a friendly chat between good friends, and think of me as your friendly guide alongside in your leadership journey. If you have any questions or suggestions, you are welcome to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always happy to hear from you.
This is Episode #28, and I’m asking you to WATCH YOUR WORDS. Words have power, and that’s both negative and positive power. Words can hurt, and words can heal, or inspire, or empower. I saw a little sign recently that said, “The tongue has no bones, but it is strong enough to break a heart. So be careful with your words.” Good advice for everyone, but especially for you, the leader who serves others. Choose your words carefully, because there may be times when you have to eat your words, and they sure don’t taste good when that happens, do they? Been there, done that … LOTS of times, but who hasn’t?
WORDS HAVE POWER. You can paint yourself into a corner with negative self-talk. Tell yourself you aren’t good enough, and pretty soon you begin to believe it. Tell a student he is not good at math, and he will begin to think he is not. Point out the mistakes that one of your team members has made and then prepare yourself to find more mistakes, because they sure will begin to show up.
That’s the negative power of words at work. Now let’s take a look at the positive side of things. What about positive self-talk? Tell yourself you ARE good enough, tell yourself that you CAN, and it’s amazing what you can accomplish. Point out to a student what she is good at, and she’ll begin to do even better. And that team member of yours? Praise what he has done well, and the mistakes begin to show up less often. What you focus on tends to be what IS.
WORDS CAN HURT. Words spoken in anger or frustration can – and often do – hurt someone terribly, and that hurt lasts, and lasts, and lasts. Words spoken without thinking about how those words may impact another can be dangerous weapons. Think of hurtful words as arrows. Once you send one flying, you can’t stop it and get it back. There aren’t any do-overs. You can say that you “take that back,” but can you really?
Think before you speak a hurtful word. Put your mind in gear before you open your mouth. Napoleon Hill said it better: “Think twice before you speak, because your words … will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”
WORDS CAN HEAL. Words have the power to hurt, but words also have the power to heal. It’s a choice we must all make. Do we spew hurtful words, or do we choose to help, to heal, to uplift another fellow human being? Think of a time when someone said something to you that hurt, even a small hurt. My guess is that you carried that barb around with you all day – or even longer. Now think of a time when someone said something positive, something kind, something complimentary, something that lifted your spirits, even just a little. Didn’t that help you stand a little taller and feel a little better that whole day, and the day after that?
Negative or Positive? Which do you choose? I can only speak for myself, but I choose to be positive whenever I can. Oh, sometimes it isn’t easy, is it? But it is a choice we all make. You ALWAYS have a choice. Think about it – the people who say “I didn’t have a choice” – well, they CHOSE to be the victim of their circumstances. Choosing not to make a choice is a choice, isn’t it? You ALWAYS have a choice.
So, my wish for you, my friend, is that you will choose to fill your mind with positive, uplifting words. Choose to read uplifting content and encouraging words. Choose actions that make you stand a little taller and feel better about yourself and your loved ones, and those you serve as leader. You ALWAYS have a choice.
WORDS CAN INSPIRE. Simon Sinek wrote that “…a leader’s true value is measured by the work they inspire others to do.” And you, the leader, must inspire the people you serve by your words as well as your actions. When things seem really dismal, we have often been blessed by well-chosen words from some of our leaders, words that give us hope and inspire us to action. Just a few examples that come to mind: Think of Franklin Roosevelt’s stirring words spoken during the Great Depression: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Winston Churchill stirred the bruised and battered English people during the dark days of World War II with his “…blood, sweat, toil and tears…” speech. And who has not been inspired by Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech? I’m sure you have many other examples that are inspirational for you.
WORDS CAN EMPOWER. Words can help, hurt, inspire, and yes, EMPOWER yourself or another person. It can be as simple as choosing positive words over negative ones – yet it really isn’t that simple. It takes a change of outlook and a commitment to empower rather than criticize. It’s easy to be critical, too easy in fact. It’s much more of a challenge to let go of our critical selves and let the positive in us shine through.
Empower yourself by choosing positive self-talk. We often put ourselves down, many times when we don’t realize we’re doing it. When you make a mistake, do you say to yourself, “that was a dumb thing to do” or, as Benjamin Zander suggests, say “how fascinating” and move on? My guess is that we say the dumb thing and fuss about the mistake. The self-critic is us is more powerful than we’d like to admit. We all need to learn to let go of what was and look ahead to what will be.
Empower others by choosing positive words rather than negative ones. One word of encouragement is more powerful than a whole boatload of criticism. When you find ways to compliment a team member on something done well, you’ll tend to get more from that person. I ran across an inspirational poster recently that said very simply and truthfully, “…treat people like they can make a difference, and they will.” Well said!
Negatives are powerful, also - but in the wrong direction. How many times a day to you say “don’t” or “can’t” to yourself or someone else? What do you think will begin to happen when you change those to “do” and “can”?
Just for fun, I compiled a list of 25 lame excuses why you can’t do something. It was all too easy to make that list. Here’s how it works: Just say “I can’t, because…” and add whatever your lame excuse is: “I can’t, because I’m too tired.” Or, “I can’t, because what will THEY think?” Or, “I can’t, because Wednesday is my bridge game day.” Try turning “I can’t…” into “I can” or “I will” and notice the subtle power shift in your words.
Add empowering words to your vocabulary, word that say: creative … exciting … thriving … dedicated … generous … resilient … civil … and so many more. The are many lists of empowering words, phrases and thoughts on the Internet. Try a few on for size. They won’t bite you.
And speaking of bite, sometimes we have to EAT OUR WORDS. Not literally, of course. It’s an old expression that kicks in when we have to admit that what we said was wrong, and we have to retract or acknowledge publicly what we said or did that was wrong. There are some peculiar words or phrases that help describe what it means to eat your words: eat crow … eat humble pie … swallow your pride … backtrack … do an about face, and so on.
When we have to eat our words, we generally think of it as a humiliating experience, and sometimes it can be. We were wrong, and we have to admit that to ourselves and everyone else. I wonder, though, why is it humiliating to admit you are wrong? Thoughts and opinions can change, especially if there is new information or some new development that comes to light, or perhaps you have thought a lot more about the matter, and you have changed your mind. What’s wrong with that? Well, for starters, we have conditioned ourselves that being wrong is somehow being inadequate or ineffective. It takes a strong person to say, “I was wrong” and not feel bad about it. To me, having the courage to say “I was wrong” is a powerful statement – if you don’t stay there and wallow in it. To me, it says, “I was wrong. I admit it and own my mistake. It’s done. Let’s move ahead.” Don’t be afraid to eat your words when you have to, my friend, and then focus on what comes next. Pass the mustard, please!
In his book, The Four Agreements, Miguel Ruiz wrote, “Be impeccable with your word.” He used that to describe INTEGRITY in a leader, having the integrity to align your words with your actions. I would just add an “S” to that and say, be impeccable with your wordS. Words have power. A hurtful word is never forgotten. A kind word is always remembered. Choose your words carefully, my friend.
And now, here are three questions for you to think about and answer as you wish. There are no right or wrong answers, and no, you won’t have to eat your words, with or without mustard. Here they are:
1. “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word…” is a familiar line from an old song, “Home on the Range.” Did you notice the words that tend to give the line negative energy? Seldom … discouraging. How could you turn that line into a positive statement?
2. From any list of empowering words, which word or words are you attracted to the most? Now, what is one way you can use the word or words to help empower another person?
3. Think of a time someone (a friend, a co-worker, a family member) said something that made you feel really good about yourself. How will you make that happen for someone else?
And that Special Key? Well, I’ve used that musical gimmick a number of times, and there are only so many keys. I’ve had to think about this one for awhile, then realized it was right in front of me all the time: it’s the Key of B – for BE kind, BE empowering, and BE impeccable with your words.
In the next episode, we’re going to take a look at what you can accomplish when you’re bored. I call it BORED IS GOOD. Being bored can stir up your creativity, your flexibility, and your problem-solving abilities. I’ll try not to bore you with this one – or maybe, I should.
Until we meet again, take good care of yourself, stay safe and well, my friend, and please remember that a hurtful word is never forgotten, and a kind word is always remembered.