The Power of Your Words

Mike Camp

How often have you been ashamed or embarrassed by the words you chose during a situation? Maybe you were speaking with friends, co-workers, or even family members. If you look back, most of these incidents likely occurred during a high stress situation where you were frustrated. Unfortunately, during times of high stress we tend to make bad decisions when it comes to the words that come out of our mouths. Certain situations bring along high tension and more episodes of frustration will inevitably occur; therefore, we must be careful in choosing our words. Remember, regardless of the situation, the use of the wrong words is never justifiable.

If you say the wrong thing during a conversation, each of your words is like a stray bullet. Once the words are dispensed, they can never be retracted and we ultimately deal with the aftermath. With the potential for serious damage, we should all consider the impact our words have on others. To be clear, if someone is direct when communicating, it doesn’t mean they are a poor leader or that they are using the wrong words. At the same time, just because they choose their words wisely doesn’t mean they’re a great leader. There are going to be times in our careers when we need to be direct. As long as the words we select don’t break people down, most will understand the message.

A good example of the power of words is revealed in movies depicting soldiers in boot camp. The goal of the drill sergeant is to "break down" the soldiers (both physically and mentally) then build them up. Choosing your words wisely is not a skill set considered when your goal is to break someone down. Although the ultimate goal is viewed as a positive, the method is not usually viewed as desirable.

As leaders our goal is to build people up instead of breaking them down. When interacting with our team, there are three main concerns: 1) the words we use, 2) the tone of our voice, and 3) our body language. Even if the right words are chosen, the wrong delivery and poor body language can derail the message and it might not be properly received. Conversely, when someone is speaking to you with a genuine nature and sincere body language, the outcome of the conversation will influence you in a more positive manner. Tony Dungy once said, "When you commit to encouraging, comforting, and strengthening others with your speech, you are not only making their lives better, you’re also making yours better by surrounding yourself with people who are affirmed and encouraged." What a great message about the true value of our words and how we can impact the lives of so many people if they are well chosen.

Take time today to think about how you choose to speak to people around you. Would you be ashamed or proud of your words? Are you building people up or breaking them down? The uttering of a few simple words can spawn great things or create disasters. It’s up to you which words you choose. As leaders, our words are more powerful than we could ever imagine. With the right words, we have the ability to unite, inspire, and engage people all over the world to achieve the unthinkable. By selecting the wrong words, we have the ability to break our team members down, leaving them with a lack of engagement and no reason to be inspired. We owe it to ourselves, our team, and our company to choose our words carefully. With our words, let us encourage the next generation of leaders to unite, inspire, and engage people all over the world.

"Most people are careless with one of their most powerful resources: their words. Use yours as an investment in people’s lives." – Tony Dungy