The IMPACT of a Word

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” — Rudyard Kipling

Communication – what enormous impact it holds – either positive or negative. We all operate in the communication field, in one form or another. Daily, we are faced with hundreds of chances to communicate through various modes and channels.

The gift of communication comes with both opportunity and responsibility. No, we can’t control how others choose to respond. But you and I choose our words.

Why is this important? Lately, we’ve been reminded that we really don’t know what may be going on inside of a person. For many, their public persona is a façade hiding a far different private existence. Tragedies ranging from senseless, random killings to shocking suicides reveal that too many are silently struggling. These horrific incidents are heart-wrenching and unacceptable in our all-consuming “social” media age. While our world is said to be more “connected” than ever, it doesn’t appear to be to each other. Face to face encounters are brief, non-personal conversations about how well life is going, while the use of anti-depressants is soaring.

This piece is not to trivialize any of these matters, comment on any individuals, or the causes or symptoms of recent tragedies. Instead, it’s meant to highlight what each of us can do with our powerful gift of communication that has the potential for exponential positive impact in a life.

Six years ago, I emailed a person I’d never met, but only knew of through business. I had no idea that the person was going through a horrible crisis until I received the person’s reply:

Your words have changed my life in a way I never thought possible…you can’t share this candor with many, so it’s nice to know someone who truly understands. Thank you for being there for me at my darkest hour and in the days of light that have followed.

So here’s a challenge: Starting today, for every person you speak to or engage with (in any form of communication), ask yourself, “What can I say to encourage the other person?” Don’t worry about delivering an eloquent oration or sounding like a greeting card. Just be genuine and heartfelt. History overflows with inspiring anecdotes about the life-altering impact of simple words from encouragers.

Will you take the challenge? Our daily news sounds the alarm – everyone could use a positive word! Next time you visit a loved one, chat with a colleague, meet with a client, or stand in line at the checkout, try it. It won’t cost you a penny, or drain your time. As this becomes your habit, you’ll see the impact – on others and on you.

Darlene Price, author of Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results, said it perfectly:

If Rudyard Kipling was right, words are the most powerful drug used by humanity. Whether we use that drug to heal or harm lies in the power of the tongue.