Watch your words! This is a warning that many hear early, probably as a child, in warning about how we speak and the words we use. It is truer and more impactful than we probably realize at the time. Our words and how we use them, however, affect us and the people around us so powerfully. Some people never realize the power of their words and others realize it and use that power in reckless or harmful ways. Take a minute and see what comes to mind when you try to remember words or phrases, things that someone said that affected you in a powerful or memorable way. Then, think for a minute about why those words or phrases were so powerful. Was it the tone, volume, the meaning or something else? Now think about why you remembered those particular words and what you felt or feel about them now. What was the affect they had? How long ago were those words spoken? Why did you remember them or carry them forward with you? Unfortunately, more often than not, the words or phrases that we remember, the one that make a big impact and stay with us far into the future are negative, loud and/or angry. Often times they are said in times that are traumatic, embarrassing or make us feel intimidated or fearful in some way. Those seem to be the words that most often stay with us, with the opposite type of words, the kind, gentle, soft, encouraging and affectionate words said in softness, affection, praise and encouragement coming in a distant second, We let them slip away. Yes, if we think hard enough those words are there too, but they usually don’t come to mind first. They seem to be dominated or over-whelmed by those other louder, more critical and negative words. This is powerful knowledge. Both for being aware of what we say and how we say it, but for evaluating and filtering the impact of our memories. People say things they don’t mean in ways they would never want them to be remembered and yet, that is exactly what happens!
As a coach and hypnotherapist, I have clients tell me in tears or on the verge of tears something that a parent said 30 or more years ago or a now ex-spouse said a decade ago and it is, as if, it was said yesterday in the emotional pain it brings back. When people dwell on these memories of mere words, often said thoughtlessly, and in a moment of anger, it causes them unneeded anguish and suffering. It is necessary to learn to take the power away from words, just as it is necessary to learn to use them better to avoid some of this needless pain and anguish.
Most of the time words are used thoughtlessly and not meant to inflict long term damage on their recipients. Some people do use them very intentionally to inflict pain and these people are often abusive in other ways as well, but we all at times use words and language in ways that inflict unintended damage. This can probably not be entirely avoided, but if we become more aware of what we are saying and how we are saying it, it is a step in the right direction. Especially with very young children, as what they hear becomes how they will speak to others. Even if language is not directed at them, for instance, a child who hears their parents arguing and saying angry things to one another will feel angrier and more hostile and may direct those feelings outward toward others or inward toward themselves. It is also true that it is the underlying feelings that are most impactful and not the exact words. We feel that energy in a powerful way.
I had a client break down in tears when I let her know that cancelling an appointment at the last minute impacted me and my schedule. I did not say it in a loud, angry or overly critical way, but wanted to make clear that it was not acceptable. She was a mature adult, so I hardly expected the reaction. However, coming from an abusive and overly-critical upbringing, something in my tone and the disappointment she sensed in my voice, brought back for her the feelings she felt as a child of never being able to please her Mother or do the right thing and thus, the overly emotional reaction. We talked about it and it surprised me how convinced she was that I was angry at her. I simply wanted her to let me know in advance in the future, if she needed to cancel or change an appointment. We worked on changing up her filtering system and trying to avoid those early experiences as a basis for judging the behaviors and intentions of others.
I had to look at the possibility of my tone and words conveying more judgement or emotion than I intended them to, as well. Having had a critical and controlling Mother, myself, that is something that would come naturally to me. I did not think I had been overly harsh, but decided in the future to go lighter in my tone and messaging to be on the safe side.
It is hard to get it just right in every case. We will probably always miscommunicate and have misunderstandings based on words and how we use them, but the more aware we are, the more attention we pay and the more intentional we become in trying to communicate accurately the closer we will come to that heart to heart, soul to soul communication we all seek.
“Be mindful when it comes to your words. A string of some that don’t mean much to you may stick with someone for a lifetime.” - Rachael Wolchin
About the Author
Kate Olson, CPC, CHt, is a Life Coach, Clinical Hypnotherapist, NLP Master Practitioner & Certification Trainer, EFT Practitioner and Reiki Master practicing in at Embrace Change Hypnosis & NLP & Soul Fire Wisdom Life Coaching in Seattle.
She offers workshops & classes, as well as, individual and group coaching. Her emphasis is on assisting clients in finding path, purpose and peace. Kate focuses on integration of mind, body, spirit wellness It is her mission to help clients find joy through connection, creativity and change facilitation. Kate is a speaker, writer and radio show host of "Soul Fire Wisdom" on Soul Fire Radio. She previously hosted"Embrace Change with Kate" on Contact Talk Radio, In additional to her private practice, Kate is a retreat facilitator and sells products related to mind, body, spirit wellness. She is passionate about creativity, travel, personal growth and living with joyful purpose. Kate's businesses operate as Dba's under Total Well Resources, LLC