Good morning dear reader & welcome to my world for another week. When you step back & really look at the sayings of our childhood, it leaves you scratching your head. They can actually be a little misleading & even disturbing.
For example, we have all heard the childhood saying: “Sticks & stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
I do not know about your experience, but this was not necessarily true for me. Someone has suggested we rewrite this statement to say: “sticks & stones may break my bones but words can shatter my soul.”
Our words have incredible power. Every one of us I suspect could go back to significant moments in our lives when the words from somebody deeply inspired & breathed life into us. And we could likewise go back to other moments where other words from somebody else have deeply cut & wounded us. The words in our past echo in our present & I suspect, they continue to shape our lives today. And the words we speak to others shape their lives.
Your words can…
Affirm & encourage; Divide a family; Build self-esteem; Tear down self-esteem; Work people into a frenzy; Disrupt unity; Bring comfort; Create panic; Express love; Incite violence; Inspire confidence; Spread mistrust; Communicate value; Destroy reputations; Resolve conflict; & Wound deeply. 1
Perhaps an example? "Kind words are like honey ~ sweet to the soul & healthy for the body.” 2 It does not cost you a cent to do this, & this is not about “spiritual gifts”. This is about sensitivity & love & kindness. Or: "Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up." 3
The biggest enemy to encouraging people with your words is not meanness or selfishness. It is HURRY. Let me encourage you when you speak such words, be as specific as possible. So, here are some ways you could support people…
In cricket, hopefully a good example this week; what is the difference between a good bowler & a great bowler? It is DELIVERY. To use another analogy, the most dangerous part of any airplane flight is the landing. And just before the airplane lands, they will talk about the plane being “on approach”. The approach is critical for a successful landing. Your approach with words is critical to successful relationships.
- An actual handwritten & personal birthday card
- A hand written note, I do this regularly for many clients
- An encouraging e-mail
- Face to face conversation
- A text message with a short message of support
Especially when you are engaging a courageous conversation or resolving conflict, your words matter even more. Your tone & the kinds of words you use make all the difference in whether we put people on the defensive or we create openness for a meaningful conversation.
Three things I think are helpful when you need to have a courageous conversation.
- “Let me share with you what I am observing”. This statement is not accusatory or condemning. I am simply sharing my observations about the situation.
- “Here is my concern”. You are simply sharing your personal concerns about the situation.
So, perhaps we all need to work at being “soft” in our communication. I am sure there are many people who will be happy to tell me this. We can be clear & still be soft.
- “Can you help me understand”? This statement acknowledges you may not have the whole picture. And, it invites the other person to share their perspective.
So, as we engage people this forthcoming week, be lavish with your words of encouragement. And, work hard on the art of good delivery. What you say matters but “how” you say it matters just as much, in fact probably more so.
Thank you for taking the time to be with me once again. I hope my journey may encourage you also. This is Kenn Butler in Paradise, Nelson, with my best wishes for the week ahead. I look forward to being with you all again next weekend.
1 Lance Witt is the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live & lead from a healthy soul. And a significant inspiration for my article this week.
2 Proverbs 16:24 (NLT)
3 Proverbs 12:25 (NLT)