“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.”
American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter) wrote that in the mid-1800’s, but he certainly recognized the power of words. The weight of words. How they make us feel, about ourselves, and the world around us.
Words can fuel hopes and dreams. Or extinguish them. Words can excite, inspire, elate, sadden, frighten, or anger us. What you say matters. It shapes your environment. Your work. Your life.
Words at work
Whether we physically go into an office or workplace setting, or work remotely, the fact is most of us spend more hours at work than we do with friends or family. And it’s only natural to want that time to be the happiest – and most productive – it can possibly be.
Words can set the stage, form the foundation, for that to happen. We can bring out the best in ourselves, and each other, in terms of creativity, cooperation and culture, by using the right words. Words of positivity.
Nurture people’s spirits. Allow them to grow. Give them a positive language to describe a nurturing culture. Words can create our attitudes at work. And we can all have a hand in that process, even if we are not in “leadership,” by co-creating the environment we would all like to work in.
In their jointly written book, Words Can Change Your Brain, Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson University, and Mark Robert Waldman, a communications expert, say that a single word has the power to shape our behavior, and impact physical and emotional stress levels, good or bad.
“By holding a positive and optimistic word in your mind, you stimulate frontal lobe activity,” the authors write. “This area includes specific language centers that connect directly to the motor cortex responsible for moving you into action. And as our research has shown, the longer you concentrate on positive words, the more you begin to affect other areas of the brain.”
Exercising positive thoughts can quite literally change one’s reality. Over time, sustained positive thoughts impact not only the perception of ourselves, but those around us.
And that comes through in our choice of words, though the authors say we aren’t great when it comes to that.
“Although we are born with the gift of language, research shows that we are surprisingly unskilled when it comes to communicating with others,“ write Newberg and Waldman. “We often choose our words without thought, oblivious to the emotional effects they can have on others.”
Now go back and read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s quote and realize how prescient his words were.
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