The power of words is not only amazing, it is powerful. It is a power that many people don’t understand or use properly.

Words begin a marriage and words finalize a divorce.

Words create a mental picture and words destroy the image.

Words win an election and words lose the race.

Words cause people to support and they cause people to withdraw.

Words start a war and words end a war.

Words create action and lack of words creates apathy.

Words reflect the person and the person reflects the words.

Here are five principles to remember when you are thinking about words and their power.

Wisdom is not in words, it is meaning within the words.

“Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you can get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.” –Tom Stoppard

Carefully choose your words focusing more on the meaning than the word. The goal of every person should be wisdom in words. You become a very powerful communicator when the words mean what you say.

Observe your tone, timing, and total picture.

People often respond to our attitudes and actions more than our words. Many petty conflicts occur because people use the wrong tone of voice. Timing is best summed up by Lady Dorothy Nevill: “The real art of conversation is not only to say the right things in the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

Resist saying everything you know or think.

A saying that sits on my desk reminds me daily of this point: “Better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove it.” If you say everything you know or think, you’ll think you know way more than you do plus the people you are speaking to will know the truth.

Deliver your thoughts.

To deliver your thoughts the best and in the most effective way, ask, don’t tell. When you ask questions to deliver your thoughts, people will tell you what you would have told them, only it came from them, not you. When people think it is their idea, they buy it.

Remember “the delivery” percentages: 7% is verbal; 38% is vocal; and 55% is visual, or body language. Work hard to deliver your thoughts using the right delivery.

Speak less and listen more.

As a society, we can’t stand silence. We thrive on noise. That makes us think we must fill in the pauses of silence. If you don’t believe this, just evaluate all the noise in your life. How many of us fill the silence using radio and television just for noise?

Two ears and one mouth should be enough of a visual reminder for us to get it. Since many of us don’t, we need to know that listening is a learned behavior and it’s a behavior worth learning.

Words are remembered long after actions are forgotten. Don’t underestimate the power of words. Don’t over-estimate your ability to use them properly. Comfort or discomfort comes from how we use them, how we communicate them, how we hear them.

Words make the difference or words cause the difference. Understanding the difference determines your power.

And these are just my thoughts on a Friday morning.

Steve Siemens, CSP
The People Builder