The power of speech

Lauren Owens, Assistant Editor

I am generally an optimistic person – at least that’s what I tell myself and others; however, when I get into stressful situations involving school or work assignments, I begin berating myself over how horrible the quality of my work is.

Even though I have spent long hours slaving away at a computer screen perfecting every detail, I begin to believe that my work is as terrible as the words that fall from my loose, stressed lips.

For example, this semester I had to give a presentation in one of my classes. I spent countless hours over winter break researching the topic, compiling notes and putting a PowerPoint together.

The amount of preparation I put into the presentation was adequate to be confident in my work, but I got so overwhelmed with the project that my thoughts focused on every negative aspect that I could.

By the day my presentation was due, I was so nervous that I couldn’t practice without stuttering and forgetting every detail I so carefully crafted a week before.

I got to my classroom that day sweating and teeth chattering from anxiety, only focusing on how my presentation would be a failure. I clutched my notes as a safety net and babbled like a fool while speaking to the class. As it came to a close, I knew that I didn’t meet my time requirement.

The moral of the story is: As I began speaking about how negatively my presentation would be, I began to believe the words I spoke about myself.

The words we speak impact the way we think and often lead us to act differently in response to those words.

In Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman’s book, “Words Can Change Your Brain,” they write, “A single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.”

When an individual is faced with negative words, the body releases stress-producing neurotransmitters, causing the brain to shut down parts associated with logic, reason and language.

Negative words can completely alter the way we respond to the world. In a normal setting when someone is quick-thinking and innovative, they may be sluggish to act and may be overwhelmed when exposed to negative words.

Conversely, positive words can alter how we view ourselves.

According to Newberg and Waldman, focusing on positive words will stimulate frontal lobe activity, and the longer we focus on positive words, the more they affect other areas of the brain such as the parietal lobe, which will change an individual’s perception of himself or herself.

Focusing on positive words will also cause individuals to perceive reality differently.

The words we focus on change how we view the world around us, thus changing our actions.

In the long run if we focus on positive words, we will live more positive lives. Our words have power. It is our job to determine what the outcome of our words will be.

I have more presentations this semester. I will take responsibility for my words and speak positively about my work.