With the ability to speak comes great responsibility, because words can significantly change the lives of others. Depending on how we use them, they can devastate or uplift.
How They Scar
Words can ruin self-esteem. Though the phrase “action speaks louder than words” is true in many situations, words can have the same impact as deeds. We don’t always have to physically do something to annihilate someone’s self-worth. Sometimes all we need are the “right” words. For instance, constantly telling someone that they will never amount to anything can cause them to start believing this.
Words can breed mistrust. People often spout venomous words during heated arguments. After the blowup, hurt feelings linger because of what was said. A common excuse for using damaging language is… I didn’t mean it. I only said it because I was angry.
For instance, if you tell someone that you hate them and then say that you didn’t mean it, the other person won’t believe you — because you were too careless with your words or blindsided by emotion to think rationally. No matter how many times you apologize, they will never forget your words, which created a wound they simply cannot dismiss.
How They Heal
Humans need strength to cope with difficult situations. The right words from someone can alleviate your stress or make you stronger. For instance, you’re depressed because you can’t relinquish the memory of your unsavory past. Hope may suddenly appear when someone who understands your dilemma says, “You can get through this,” or “You’re one of the strongest people I know.”
Humans need appreciation. When we express our appreciation to someone who deserves it, we satisfy their basic need for recognition. For instance, children welcome praise from their parents for performing well in school and spouses feel reassured when their partners verbally communicate their love to them. You feel special or valued when someone tells you, “I’m grateful for everything you’ve done for me,” “You did a great job,” or simply “Thank you.”
Note: our words cannot emotionally destroy someone or ease their anguish if that person doesn’t welcome them. Still, our words will likely evoke a reaction in the listener, whether seen or unseen. It is therefore crucial to weigh each word before speaking.