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Words matter

The power of words video

Whilst researching some marketing ideas, I came across this video. It certainly got my tear ducts going. Then I started to think about how powerful our words are and the impact they can have on people.

I don’t know why I’m surprised by some of the comments I read on news feeds, the detachment that the internet provides can bring out the worst in people (or does it just amplify our underlying character??). I am often saddened by the scathing and hurtful comments I read. 

When I was young (a very long time ago), we used to chant “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” – not true – words matter.  Hurtful words worm their way into our subconscious and needle us, chipping away at our self esteem or feeding the anger. Some can bat them back into submission, others can’t.

Recently, I read a comment on a BBC news item on Facebook; a woman was being taunted by people because her name is Corona.  One of the comments by a young (compared to me) man was how people should take care when giving people’s names to things such as viruses (I paraphrase).  I don’t often comment on feeds but this time I replied explaining that Corona means crown and that the reason the virus is called Corona virus is that, under a microscope, it had an crown-like appearance. The lady was given her name probably because of it’s meaning.

I followed my comment with a smile emoji or two and a “I hope that makes sense” to emphasise that I was trying to be helpful not judgemental.

We had a short exchange of posts about names and their meanings (while others ranted on with their opinions).  It ended by  another reader making just a simple observation …. “what a refreshing conversation!” (it was).

It’s easy to fall into the trap of responding with written words that can be taken the wrong way. Without the voice or gestures to convey the meaning we intend, our words can be misconstrued and hurtful, they become verbal sticks and stones.

In this socially distanced 2020 and beyond, take care with the words you write.  Put yourselves in your reader’s shoes.  Especially as learning professionals, we want to motivate, encourage and inspire our learners. Get a balance of being succinct and friendly when you coach, give feedback and guide.

Words matter – change your words to make a positive difference.

What stories do you have about the impact our words can have? Do you have any tips to share?