In the last decade, with the rise of social media and 24/7 news channels, people are producing more content than ever before. And that means that people have more choice about what they listen to than ever before. In our noisy world, words matter.
Why should we care? For starters, say these words and phrases out loud. What comes to mind when you hear them? “You just don’t get it,” “You ______ like a girl,” “I don’t care,” “You’re just confused.”
Words stir something inside of us. They cause movement. Words sell. Words polarize and divide. Words tear people down. Because they are so powerful, we should work hard to get them right.
Before we start, can we all agree that there are some words that need to be retired? Phrases like “Out-of-the-box,” “LOL,” and “world class.” Other words that have become tiresome include: tremendous, huge, collusion, fake news, witch hunt, hoax, loser…! The reality is that leaders, even world leaders, set the tone with their language.
With that in mind, here are a few thoughts about words.
Words are generational
There are large cohorts of people, called “generations,” born around the same time as each other, who grew up experiencing the same things. Within each generation, there are certain words that resonate more than others. Here are some examples of words that are meaningful to the four major cohorts in today’s workplace:
Words express emotions
Certain words mean more to different generations. However, there are words that communicate emotion across generational and cultural divides. Take a moment to say some of these words out loud. Make a note of how you feel when you say each one.
Words can hurt and discourage
Spaz, Moron, Thug, Dumb, Fool, No, Failure, Incompetent, Hate, Weird, Disappointment, Ugly, Useless, Stupid, Spoiled.
The last word on words
None of this is anything new. But, if you’re anything like me, you forget that your words carry meaning and that they can stir emotion and action in the lives of your listeners and readers. So, be thoughtful about your word choice. You never know the kind of good you could do in this world by paying attention to what comes out of your mouth and what you put on paper.
Words are powerful. Let’s take them seriously.
Susan K Spaulding is an Author, Facilitator, Researcher, Strategist, Consultant, and Coach.
I work with businesses and leaders to take inventory, uncover the possibilities and navigate a path forward.
Storytelling is fundamental to learning, teaching, connecting and inspiring.