“Hi Cherry,” says Doris, smiling.
Laughter bursts loudly from deep within me.
“You look like a bumble bee,” are my unfiltered and inappropriate first words.
Doris is no longer smiling.
“Damn, damn, damn,” I think. “I hurt her feelings.”
The next 3 minutes I spend back-peddling, apologizing, soothing.
To use Jennifer Reed’s words in an article in this month’s Success Magazine, I had just used my power for evil. Evil’s a harsh term for words that seem to fly out of your mouth of their own volition, but the truth is Doris never wore the outfit she had on that day again in her life.
Your Words Impact Much More Than The Clothes People Wear
The story of Patricia Buitrago in Are You Using Your Power For Good Or Evil begins with her winning a Fort Myers, Florida community award for teaching.
Patricia almost didn’t became a teacher because of the words of her 10th grade math teacher. In fact, his careless words influenced Patricia to give up her dream of college for 17 years.
“You don’t understand math. You shouldn’t even think about college,” he told her. Then he sent her to a lower-level math class.
“Patricia cried all the way to her new class. She’d been raised to believe in the wisdom of teachers and took his words to heart. The straight A’s she received in her other courses dropped to solid C’s.
‘I gave up,’ she remembers.”
Our Words Have Hidden Superpowers
You may not think of yourself as an influencer – a person of power – but you are.
Think of the number of people you encounter in a day: family members, friends, co-workers, clerks in a store, people in your community, people on-line. What you say is heard and felt by each of them. Like a stone dropped in a pool of water, your words ripple outward and have a larger impact than you imagine.
Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, tells the story of when he was in 9th grade his family moved from Texas to Nebraska. He was the new kid in school and on his first day in the cafeteria a kid exclaimed “Man! You have one BIG nose!” Hyatt continued by saying that from that day forward when he would look in the mirror all he saw was his nose. It now dwarfed all his other features. In his mind he was simply a walking nose. It took years before he started to see and think of himself as more than just a big nose.
Using Your Superpower For Good
I gave 3 examples of how people’s words had a far-reaching negative effect on another person. The stories may have made you think of a time when you were hurt by someone’s words. Did you also think about the negative effect random words of yours may have had on another?
But your words, and mine, can also provide someone the courage to press on.
When I was student teaching at a combined middle school and high school I had an encounter with a 6th grader who was experiencing school-phobia. In other words, she was panicked by her new, large, easy-to get-lost-in school. I was in the library when I saw a little girl’s mother drop her off at school, quickly driving away on the large circular drive hoping to force her daughter to stay at school. Her distraught mother had no idea what else to do. (The guidance counselor and others had already attempted to help).
Then I saw the red-headed girl with baby-fat still on her body take off running across the center circle of grass, hoping to catch up with her mom. I was a couple seconds behind her. With much longer legs than she, I quickly caught up with Claudia. I don’t remember what I said: as is often the case, the speaker’s words mean nothing to them. But my words influenced her. She came inside with me.
The assistant principal saw that Claudia had connected with my words and me. He allowed her to sit in the back of my classroom for the rest of the day. Over the next two weeks I met her every morning and walked her to her class. But the following week I wouldn’t be at the school. I gave her a worry-bird charm that I wore on a necklace. I told her that bird would hold her worries for her and she should touch it when she wanted to think of me.
Claudia never ran away from school again. She graduated, married and became a mother. I know all this because she wrote to me for years.
Your words are powerful. They can give someone the courage to press on.
Ways To Ignite Your Superpower
- Be intentional with the words you use. Think before you speak.
- Consider the impact your words could have on the other person. Might the words hurt him or her?
- Use encouraging rather than discouraging words.
- Don’t speak out of anger or spite.
- If you’re too tired to monitor your words, choose another time to give feedback.
- Have high expectations for your ability to have a positive impact.
- Think about the type of words that hurt you. Empower you. Be conscious of that difference when you speak to others.
I believe you can positively impact another person’s life and increase their confidence. You probably already have.
Be the kind of person you want to see in the world.
I’d appreciate if you’d take the time to share one of your stories of the power of words in the comment section. It’s a great way to provide inspiration to others and spread your influence. It will start a domino effect of positive words.
Sending loving thoughts, Cherry