The Power of the Spoken Word

stepping stones

The Power of the Spoken Word

When I was a child, this was a familiar retort to kids who were saying mean things:  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me!”  While I may have wanted this to be true, it couldn’t have been further from the truth.  Even at the tender age of eight, I knew the real truth.  Words did hurt… very much!

With our words we have the power to hurt or heal, create or destroy, uplift or knock down, hate or love.  Regardless of how much you have worked on yourself and healed your childhood wounds, you may still hear the voice of your mother telling you that you look fat, or the voice of your father telling you that you are stupid.   Intellectually we understand how wrong this is.  However, many of us continue to perpetuate this damaging dialogue in the way we speak to ourselves, our partners and our children without consciously realizing how it has permeated our lives.

We must understand and take responsibility for what we say and how we say it in order to have healthy relationships and successful lives.  It’s so much easier to play the blame game.  That means finding a person, place or thing to blame for your feelings and reactions.  It’s much harder, and often more painful, to look at our part in whatever is occurring in our relationships.  However, if you see how much you are affected by what others say and do, then isn’t it possible that others are affected by your words and actions as well?

Many of the couples I see in my practice are stuck in a power struggle, each convinced that his or her partner is the problem.  It’s amazing to see how a wife can only talk about what her husband is doing wrong, while her husband is talking about her issues!   The way they speak to each other is painful to observe.  Imagine how it feels to be the recipient of the critical comments.

As children we may have been criticized by parents, teachers, coaches or other kids.  The concept of “tough love” in order to makes us stronger doesn’t take into account how sensitive children are.  If we are constantly criticized, we must develop a tough skin to protect our sensitive heart.  Otherwise, life is too painful!  The result of criticism in childhood is twofold.  First, we learn to speak to ourselves in the same critical manner.  It becomes second nature to point out what we are doing wrong rather than right.  We also learn to speak to others in the same critical manner, focusing on their shortcomings rather than their strengths.

This does not mean that we should never tell someone when something bothers us.  On the contrary!   Suppressing feelings often leads to anger and resentment.  It is crucial that we learn how to express ourselves openly and honestly.  There is a way of doing this that preserves the other person’s sense of self while still expressing our truth.  When you speak about your feelings and reactions rather than blaming someone else, you are taking responsibility for yourself and not putting the other person down.  Express your feelings and then let them go!

Taking this a step further, criticizing someone doesn’t just hurt the person you are speaking badly to or about.  It actually  hurts you in more ways than you may realize.  Your words are creative.   Specifically, the words you speak create your reality.   What you focus on you attract.  Are you complaining about what is wrong in your life and criticizing others or talking about what you are grateful for in your life?  Do you want to use your powerful words to speak negative, hurtful things or positive, loving things?

One of my more successful clients tells of how his mother would put him and his brothers to bed every night with a back rub and loving words that encouraged them to dream big.   When he told her of one of his dreams, rather than telling him to be more realistic, she would say, “If anyone can do it, YOU can!  I know you will be a great success someday, sweetheart.”   Think of where we would be if we heard those words repeated throughout our childhood!  When this man started his first company at the age of 16, he was so filled with positive programming that he was unaffected by the voices of those who doubted him.  Because he thought and believed he could do it, he did!

You can see how powerful our words are.  Keep in mind that what you give out returns to you multiplied!  It seems to me there is only one good choice.  Try expressing love, gratitude and appreciation.  Tell your partner, family and friends what they are doing that makes you happy instead of criticizing them.  Let them know you believe in them.  I guarantee you will feel uplifted and so will the people around you!