The Power of Words

By Brian Fitzpatrick

I’ve never really understood numbers, but I love words. I always have. I love their shape, their structure, their sounds, their meanings. I love playing with words – anagrams, acronyms, acrostics. I love crosswords, particularly cryptic ones. I love word puzzles, poetry, song lyrics and all things about words.

Words have power. The correct or incorrect use of words can either confuse someone or give them certainty. They can motivate or demotivate someone. They can bring people to tears, lift them up or enrage them.

Think of the famous wordsmiths. The plays of Shakespeare have become formative for so many cultural concepts. The speeches of Martin Luther King, Ghandi and Nelson Mandela have shaped history. The songs of The Beatles have become cultural reference points for the 20th Century.

Politicians know the power of words. Kevin Rudd used the word ‘Sorry’ to the stolen generation and that had a healing effect on many Australians. Marketing and advertising people know the power of words as well.

I also like to know the origin of words. Many come from classical sources. Two of my favourites come from Latin. The word ‘emotion’ comes from the Latin root ‘motare’ – to move. If I know what my emotion is, I have a pretty clear idea of what action I need to take. The word ‘amateur’ comes from the word ‘amore’ which means to love. That tells me I don’t necessarily have to be good at my hobbies, I just have to love them.

So when you think about your language, consider how you deliver it. Many business owners I work with get caught up in negative self-talk, the place of tension between work and family. Those that struggle use the phrase: ‘It’s either work OR family’. Those that live a fuller life use the phrase: ‘It’s both work AND family’. Just a simple connecting word can change a person’s whole experience of life.

Be careful too of the language you use with your children. A child that is told continually that they are not good enough grows up with a negative self-belief. Words like you are ‘dumb’, ‘lazy’ and ‘naughty’ create a sense of negativity in the listener. Alternatively using words like ‘You can learn it, have a go and choose again’ promote a sense of value in the other person.

Words can heal or harm, inspire or crush. They can trigger feelings of love or fear. They are the tools of every great story teller. Language is the cornerstone of any culture, the symbols of each generation. Each separate cultural group in our society has a set of words that when used show belonging.

So it’s very important for all of us to use the words with ourselves and others that contribute to a better world.

See why I love words? As the old saying goes ‘Mind your language’!

It’s a beautiful life!


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