Recently, I heard a very smart mentor tell a crowd that “words have meaning.”
The context was that even in relation to giving criticism, it is important to be constructive, and not destructive to those receiving it.
Some are not good at giving criticism and others can be downright sadistic–humiliating, embarrassing, marginalizing, verbally abusing, and even throwing things.
Words can really hurt people, and the kids song about “stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me”–is just not true for children or adults.
From a work perspective, I relate this to what I learned earlier in my life about being not only balanced with people and their performance, but also seeing the whole human being–listening to them and being empathetic.
In performance terms, it’s as important to say what people are doing well, as well as to point out areas where their is room for improvement–and yes, it’s hard to admit it, but no one of us is perfect, and at the same time, no one really likes to be criticized.
So it takes a special talent, but one that can be learned–if you have an open mind–to have a heart-to-heart with others, and show that you are not just criticizing to be an S.O.B., but that you genuinely accept the person for who they are, and want to help them learn and grow–and do even better in the future.
We all have strengths and weakness, and with kindness, we can help others to rise above their limitations and break new barriers in their lives.
I came across a different example of where words have meaning in terms of people looking for opportunity.
I heard a story about this person who when asked why they should get a job, responded because they are a “good person.”
Word do have meaning and we don’t give opportunities to people because they like the person they are, but rather because they have “earned it” professionally–life is competitive and opportunities are not just handed out.
One more example of how words have meaning, happened when I heard one lady ask another what her son was doing for the summer (given all the unemployment). The other lady replied, “oh, he’s busy–sleeping and eating.”
Ouch. Yes, times are tough out there, but to hear the mother say it–in that way–about her own child, just sounded perhaps a little harsh and judgmental, but who really knows their particular circumstance.
Words have meaning–they can bring lovers together, hurt those you love the most, damage reputations, destroy lives, and tear nations apart or bring unity to them and determination to their cause.
Watching what we say and how we say it–is important for us in growing as decent and thoughtful human beings and in becoming good leaders–in both, we have to have heart and treat others well in both word and deed.
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)