In moments of solitude, words bounced around my head. Story lines, poem verses and commentary quips all vie for my attention. Sometimes it is a tranquil flow of thoughts. Other times, it is a barrage of views on a variety of topics.
It is not that my mind wanders. (OK, perhaps it does.) It is that my mind thinks in stories. My mind revels in words. I question the news I hear with more questions. I wonder what motivated people to do or say something. I ponder the third order effects of world events. Essentially, my mind becomes an episode of Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story.
I have an inquiring mind. I don’t just want to know HOW things work, but why. This quest of understanding is not just for things though. It applies to people as well. I look at mankind and want to understand. Why are we cruel to one another? How do two people fall in love? What element or factor makes one person use their brilliance for good, and yet another, for bad?
People are hard to understand of course though. I mean, some of us are still trying to figure out ourselves. Nevertheless, if you want to understand someone, you really just need to listen – like really listen. That means, stop thinking of your responses. Refrain from your preconceived biases. And, reduce the noise from outside elements. Focus on the speaker, the person, the subject. Listen to their words, their tone, their tempo. Actively listen to them with your ears while your eyes read their nonverbal language.
This action will generally tell you volumes. People reveal themselves through communication. Words, both verbal and nonverbal, matter. What and how we speak, or not, exposes a person’s motivations, goals and history. If we take the time to listen, they will tell us what we want to know, and sometimes, without even knowing it themselves.
To deny the power of language is foolish. It defines humanity. Without words, we are merely animals. Without lyrics and notes, there is no music. Without commonly understood terms, no stories could be told and no history passed. Therefore, words indeed do matter.
As people, we can use words to incite anger, hate and fear. And yet others, can use their verse to inspire, motivate and teach. The magic of language lets us share the immense feelings of love and the gripping torment of pain. Words let people from different races, religions and cultures understand each other.
Mastery of language can vault someone into roles: teacher, leader, poet. However, brash ineptness of words can have a similar momentum by thrusting people into a spot light. Their out-of-place comments or absurd remarks have shock value. Sometimes that spot light leads to a “celebrity” status. While other times, it’s simply a shooting star’s 15 minutes of fame.
Regardless, it is the ability to communicate, or not, that got them there. Their use of language helped others understand them. Through their verbal and nonverbal words, they defined themselves, revealed their past and eluded to their intent. The consistent choice of language reflects their character and values. Essentially, words are a person’s vines. They can either produce blossoms or strangle the host. Either way, they lead to the root. Whether those roots are good or bad is for each person to decide. So I suggest that we all listen to what is said…because words will tell you all you want to know.
Quotes from authors on the power of words:
- “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
― Rudyard Kipling
- “Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.”
― Aldous Huxley,
- “Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.”
― Patrick Rothfuss,
- “That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.”
― Arundhati Roy,
- “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.”