On the face of it, it can seem that some words, especially negative ones, have a superficial affect because they are not as damaging as physical hurt. But words can often be far more powerful in their impact. They can actually make or break life with their effect. Any physical damage can heal with time but words usually have emotional consequences that actually affect our present and our future in two major ways:
1. Words can boost self-belief, self confidence and self esteem.
Those three states lie at the heart of success. When they are reinforced, they become much more effective and they are validated through words. If we hear words that are affirming, reinforcing of who we are and desire to be, we are likely to accept them as an accurate description of who we are, which then increases our motivation to fulfil and enhance that description even more. Positive words uplift us and empower us. They remind us of our worth and value and inspire us to find our true potential. That is why quotes and sayings by other famous and successful people are so powerful in themselves. They come from sources who have benefitted from such words, who know their true value; and they motivate us to use them in ways that can benefit us too.
Words of praise, a compliment, a thank you and words of agreement are all aspects of words being very effective in changing our behaviour and perceptions; in motivating us to rise above ourselves and in giving timely reminders of our worth and value. Positive words become the armoury that protects us from the brickbats of life and reinforce the path we seek for our own fulfilment.
2. Words that damage self-perception and esteem.
If we hear nothing but constant criticisms, put downs and negative reinforcement, words that can do long-term damage to our psyche, they will affect our perception of ourselves in a very corrosive manner to the effect that we gradually come to reject ourselves. If a child from an early age keeps hearing how useless he is, how ugly she is, how he is and how stupid she seems, they will eventually internalise such negative descriptions of themselves, they will come to believe it and actually act like it. Words that are negative have long lasting emotional consequences in our development. They have the power to erode our confidence and self esteem by making us believe that we are not who we think we are; that we lack the capabilities we think we have and that we'll never achieve what we expect. In effect, negative words kill the spirit, especially from an early age, or in a work situation. They have the power to destroy ambition, potential and even a life.
The reason why words have the power to affect others so much is related to personal identity. We are validated by the people around us. They confirm who we are, our part in society and encourage us in what we wish to be. When we hear words which negate that identity and perception, it sets up a dissonance within us which is difficult to cope with, unless we have other positive words to the contrary that disprove the negative ones.
Words are very powerful and will always affect others in either affirming or critical ways. That is why it is very important to be quick with that praise and affirmation, while being careful about the negative things we say to others we value, especially if we don't really mean it! With some very simple words we could be having a profound effect on the lives of others, one way or another, without even realising it.
Elaine Sihera (Ms CYPRAH)
Emotional Health Adviser
"Respect and love begin with the self. If we have none, how can we give away any?"