We’ve all heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This saying is trying to say that we can only be hurt by sticks and stones, and that no matter what words someone uses against us, we can’t be affected by them. This is simply not true, words can be as damaging, if not worse, than getting hit with sticks and stones. The main difference is that it takes longer for words to affect us, compared to getting hit with sticks and stones. The power of the word is one of the highest powers there can be.
Have you heard of the “self fulfilling prophecy?” The classic example is when a child is repeatedly told that they’ll never amount to anything in their life, and in the end they end up not amounting to anything, but the results are attributed to the prophecy (an important key in this phenomenon is that the prophecy is repeated several times). Had the child never been told they wouldn’t amount to anything maybe things would have been different. This doesn’t mean it always happens this way, but it does point to the effect words can have on us.
Another example is bullying, either kids on kids, or adults on adults. Bullying can involve physical abuse or verbal abuse. As we have seen in the news, both types of bullying have damaging effects. It is clear that the power of the word must be acknowledged.
There is also the unspoken word, our thoughts, the words we use to talk to ourselves. What does your inner dialogue sound like? In general, there is always a pattern to our inner dialogue. The pattern can be generally negative such as, “Dam it, I’m such a looser!” Or it can be generally positive, “I tried my best, I’ll do better next time.” It’s very important to know and to notice what our inner dialogue is like.
The power of the word is a double edged sword, but we have a choice. We can use the power of the word to have a positive impact on our lives and the lives of those around us. The first step is to notice our words. I mean this literally, take notes. Have a notepad with you at all times, or use your phone. You don’t have to be super detailed and write every thought word for word. But you do need to capture the general mood of your thoughts. Try this for a week or so. Then reflect on your word, what does it look like? Is it positive, negative, neutral? Does it reflect your current life situation? If you don’t like what you see then it’s time to change your dialogue, and the changes are very small and subtle, but they have the greatest impact. A good example is one time I decided to ride my bike to work. On my way back I noticed my fellow colleagues getting into their nice cars and driving home, and poor little me was riding his used bike. My dialogue to myself was, “Dam, I feel like a poor man, trying to save gas by riding my bike instead of driving my car.” Luckily I noticed it and quickly thought of all the good things coming out of me riding my bike instead of my car and I told myself, “Well, at least I’m getting in shape, I’m saving gas, and contributing to a cleaner environment.” And voila, I immediately felt a lot better. So as you can see, there are always a lot of different ways of describing one situation, it’s important to first of all notice our way of describing things, and second, know that you have a choice, and of course, choosing a way of using our word that would be of the most benefit.
Use the power of the word for your benefit; use the “self fulfilling prophecy” to your advantage. Tell yourself what you want, repeat it as much as you can, think about it, imagine it, believe it, and you will surely get what you want.
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