“Words, words, words; I’m so sick of words,” were the lyrics sung by Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, which I watched on AMC not too long ago. Her disdain was in sharp contrast with Professor Higgins’ obsessive love of words. This got me thinking about my lifelong love affair with words and the responsibility that comes along with that.
I recently saw motivational speaker and author Les Brown address a group of businesswomen. Les skillfully speaks in quotable sound bites and uses words better than many for inspiring people to take action in their own lives. What he had to say about using your words effectively was this, “Never let what you want to say get in the way of what they need to hear.”
A recent discussion thread on one of the LinkedIn groups stemmed from the question, “What 3 words best describe you?” The answers were many and ran the gamut from serious to professional to comical to advertorial to informative. Actually they were all informative to a point, giving a small glimpse into the character of the person posting the words. In this arena, words can label.
It also got me thinking about the infinite and palpable power of words and how as human beings – the only animal given the gift of spoken and written language – we have an inordinate responsibility to use our words to their greatest effect. Words can maim someone’s spirit, inspire people into action, teach a life lesson, increase the value of a person, place or thing, encourage, discourage, make people laugh, cry or pause, fire people, hire people or make someone’s day.
If that’s not responsibility I don’t know what is. This is why I’m in the midst of a lifelong love affair with words.
Here’s how you can use your words more effectively:
- Think before you speak – take a pause and realize the effect your words may have
- Be impeccable with your word – the first of the “The Four Agreements” written by Don Miguel Ruiz who said, “Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Use the power of your word to the direction of truth… “
- Don’t project your issues on others – own your own crap by not using hurtful words to make your problems someone else’s
- Ask questions – show an interest by being honestly inquisitive in people and situations
- Remember and use people’s names – it’s a simple recognition that raises the level of connection between you and others
- Communicate, don’t alienate – kind directness gets much greater result than spite
A recent CBS piece on Winston Churchill really brought this home for me. His passion for words is exquisitely recorded in the 44 books he wrote, which include his many eloquent speeches. He wasn’t only a thought leader but a thought changer with his words. The fact that his 1953 Nobel Prize was for literature merely solidifies his standing as, arguably, one of the greatest wordsmiths of all time.
Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Go Winston. Words to live by.