How many of us have heard the saying; think before you speak? The truth is that most of us don’t follow the wisdom of that advice. When we don’t, we often find ourselves at the heart of conflicts and struggles. The saying is quite powerful and yet we seldom stop to think about the meaning and why the advice is so wise. What’s more, we rarely think before we speak.
Why should we think before we speak? Because words mean things and they have far more power than most people know or even consider. Words can make people laugh or cry, they can paint incredible pictures in the mind, they can encourage or discourage and they can bring happiness or despair. Words have inspired many sayings about words and speech, too. For instance, “It is to better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
The quote is attributed to Abraham Lincoln, among others, and while we can see the truth in that saying, we should also be able to see that our words can paint astounding images in our minds. Think about this paragraph:
“The sun was just coming up over the tree tops, sparkling off the ripples on the lake and reflecting off the dew that clung to the leaves of grasses and bushes. The joyful sounds of birds greeting the sunshine spoke of the promise of a new day. I raised a steaming cup of coffee to my lips as I gazed out over the peaceful, serene lake and in the distance, there was the splash of a fish as it jumped after a flying insect, then fell back into the water.”
Could you imagine the scene? That was just three sentences. They give no indication of the purpose of being in that location at that time, yet it isn’t necessary to know the purpose, for the words to paint the image in our minds. It’s incredible how powerful words are, isn’t it?
Most of what you say today will probably be without thought and consideration. That is true of all of us. And yet our words do impact others. For instance, consider the person who is in a store and sees someone else with an armful of cans. One can falls from their load and as often happens, as they attempt to catch it, the rest of the cans fall.
If the first person mutters, “Clumsy!”, the second person can and probably will feel intense embarrassment and anxiety. If the person smiles and says, “That’s happened to me, too,” the second person doesn’t feel as bad. Wow, what a difference, just from the words that are spoken! Also amazingly, the words we speak actually shape our own thoughts.
Suppose you work hard at cooking a special meal. Your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend or family member takes a bite, then says, “It tastes really good, but there is a bit too much salt.”
That can be discouraging, even though it might be true.
Let’s say that the words spoken are, “This tastes really good!”
You’ll probably be encouraged and will feel better about yourself and your effort. Yet the only difference is that the “but” and what follows it is never spoken. The last eight words aren’t needed anyway, since it would be rather difficult to un-salt the meal. It’s amazing, isn’t it?
Words are just as important to everyone here who writes, whether that is in an article, a response to an article, in a forum, in an email or in social media. In some ways, the written word is even more powerful since it lingers long after it is written.
I encourage everyone who reads this to do your best today to think before you speak (or write). This goes for me as well, because every one of us could do a better job of choosing our words. I definitely need this reminder. The reminder is as much for me as it is for anyone reading this.
Words have power and they mean things. More importantly, they are the building blocks of communication, no matter what the language is and no matter where in the world a person is. Through your words, you can inspire happiness or you can encourage despair. How are you going to use your words today?