The average woman speaks 20,000 words a day, and the average man speaks about 7000. However, this article isn’t about communication quantity. It’s about communication quality. Either way you slice it, we are speaking thousands of words per day and the question is this: do they matter?
More than ever.
With so many methods of communication possible, we are constantly open to misunderstandings. Making the most of your words and choosing them carefully is a critical method to preserving relationships and ensuring that what we say is what is heard.
The truth is – there’s very little truth to the old sing-song rhyme from the playground, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” Words hurt. Words are often the most damaging weapon we will ever use against another person.
With that in mind, if you want your words to matter, there are five questions to consider before speaking.
- Is it true? Are the words you are going to speak based on fact, hearsay, or emotions that are running out of control? So often we make declarative statements in the heat of an argument that put the other person on the defensive. Or we repeat what others have said without taking the time to determine the validity of the statement.
- Is it helpful? Are we making the most of our thousands of words per day? Do they offer value? Do they uplift the hearer or do they tear someone down? Are we simply talking to hear ourselves speak because we can’t stand the deafening echoes of silence? If the words we speak are counterintuitive to being productive and helpful, perhaps we should make friends with Silence.
- Is it inspiring? Not everything we say is going to be inspirational or quotable. But wouldn’t it be nice if our words inspired someone else to “pay it forward” with their words? Wouldn’t it be nice if we spoke words of inspiration that had a domino effect on the world around us?
- Is it necessary? Not every comment is worthy of a comeback. Sometimes, the best response is simply to walk away. After all, as many wise Southern Mamas have said – you don’t have to show up to every argument you’re invited to.
- Is it kind? What if, before we said a single syllable, we took the time to pepper our words with kindness? What if we were intentional about uplifting the people we spend time with? What if we made a choice to look for the good? What if we stopped complaining? And what if we spoke with a smile in our voice? The world might look very different if we did.
American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne once said, “Words: So innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
Words can build up. Words can tear down. Combine them well.