The Power of Words

My mom used to be a third-grade teacher. Up on the board, she wrote a saying that I became very acquainted with: “If it’s not necessary, kind or true, then don’t say it.

When I was growing up, I had a very sharp tongue. I would say hurtful things, knowing that they were hurtful, and I burned some bridges doing so. When I became a teenager, I saw the damage that my tongue could do, so I’ve been making a conscious effort ever since to think before I speak.

But all too often the words that I say cause conflict. I have become very aware of the hurtful things that I say, but I am a very opinionated and slightly outspoken person who is not afraid to speak her mind and tell things as they are. It’s a quality that I am very proud of, but sometimes others who don’t know that I’m just a bold person, not a hurtful one, take my honesty as meanness.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the past few years it is that words have power. It’s why I write. It’s why I love poetry and see writing as powerful as any other type of art, such as acting or photography or sculpting. Words can make or break people.

I’ve also learned a few lessons about the conflicts that words can cause. There are several ways to handle these conflicts, and I want to share what I’ve learned, understanding of course that I don’t always handle things the best way. My temper is as hot as leather seats in July, and I would always rather handle things immediately than calm down first.

And that’s the first thing that I’ve learned. When I hear that somebody has said something hurtful about or to me or that I’ve said something that hurt somebody’s feelings, I always try to take a minute or two to breathe, put myself in the other person’s shoes, and think. By trying to calm down and think about how I would feel if I was the offended person, I can usually figure out the best way to apologize and correct what I said.

That’s probably the hardest thing for me to do when I’m arguing with somebody. I would much rather say whatever I’m thinking. That’s what’s easier than making an effort to calm down and not over react. But when I calm down, my ability to communicate my thoughts rationally and understandably to the other person increases dramatically.

The other thing that I’ve learned to do is not be afraid to seek council. I am very fortunate to have some special relationships with professors and my parents. I can go to them to talk about problems that I have, and they’ll give me another opinion and help me see what I’ve done wrong.

The final lesson that I’ve learned is that if there is a conflict in the workplace, go to your boss to talk about it. The workplace has to remain professional, and it’s usually best to take conflicts to your boss so that he or she can handle it in the best, most professional way since they’re removed from the situation.

It’s hard for me to go to somebody else to handle a situation rather than handling it myself. I would usually say that conflicts need to be handled between the offender and the offended, but the workplace is not a social setting, it is professional. That’s why it’s best to take conflicts to a manager or supervisor so they can be handled professionally.

Conflicts are hard, and I’m not perfect at handling them, but I’m trying.