Language Prowess: The Power of Words to Build or Break

Most of us understand that words are tools and that we use language to obtain what we want and to express how we feel. But few of us contemplate the power of our words or impact they have on those with whom we speak. In other words, we don’t always think before we speak. As the old adage goes, words can heal or destroy. A simple statement can bear amazing results, or it can sabotage a career or a relationship in the blink of an eye.

Capable and energetic people are natural magnets because of their contagious enthusiasm. They generally use ‘power words’ to express their level of confidence and vigor: ‘I’m doing great, how are you?’, ‘That’s awesome!’ and ‘Great to see you!’ These are simple phrases that can be anticipated from the upbeat class. Conversely, hum-drum, negative folks seem to have the opposite effect. Who wants to be around those who whine or nitpick? ‘I’m not so well today,’ ‘I hate my job,’ or ‘I’m so tired’ are terms that the downers often say. Given the choice, unless people are complainers who are drawn to their own type, most people want to be with cheerful, optimistic people who speak words that energize and encourage.

The advertising industry spends millions each year studying the power of language, and they utilize words such as “results,” “proven,” “guaranteed,” and “revolutionary” to lure consumers into buying a product. Well aware that when words are strategically used they have a compelling effect on the listeners (and in their case, the buyers), ad agencies choose their words in a contemplative and premeditated manner.

Also, people generally think in pictures. The word “puppy” probably conjures an image in your mind of a small dog as opposed to the letters that describe the animal. Good speakers paint mental pictures because they know that people respond more to stories and images than they do to boring lectures. When words are formulated to paint positive pictures in the mind of the hearer, a speaker is effective.

Hurtful words have the most lasting impact. A brutal parent who calls a child “stupid” may not realize the burden that the child will have to bear, often for a lifetime, because of how he or she was labeled. That parent can apologize for the offense, but the damage is caused immediately when the malicious word is spoken.

In a professional environment, strong words can go far. “I’ll take that on,” “let me try to solve this,” or “this is my plan…” can be so valuable to an employer. Affirmative words demonstrate that an employee is eager and motivated — qualities that can propel one forward in a corporate environment. On the other hand, complaining about a workload, or blaming others for mistakes can have a stifling effect on a career because it reflects an employee’s generally pessimistic manner.

Even complaints, when properly lodged in calculated terms can produce better results than if simply spoken without thought:

“We were so looking forward to our stay at your hotel, because we understand that it’s quiet and relaxing here, but we are unable to sleep because of the noisy neighbors. Since the primary objective of our stay here is to rest, can you please either ask our neighbors to tone down the noise level, or relocate us to a more quiet section of your hotel?”


“This hotel sucks! We can’t sleep because our neighbors are loud! Please shut them up or we want our money back.”
Hotel guests with the second statement will simply be pacified, while hotel guests who speak the first will likely be moved or upgraded because the hotel staff hopes to have that client and his or her friends back again.

“Please,” “thank you” and “I’m sorry,” are still the most universally virtuous and connective terms because everyone appreciates thoughtfulness and kindness. Few understand the impact and the power that language has on the listener. When you predetermine the result you want to achieve from a discussion, choose the best words that will help you accomplish those results, and you will be more effective and efficient in all you hope to accomplish.


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