Keep your words short and sweet…

There is an old Buddhist proverb – “Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace.”  How much time is spent associating a price tag to words?  Words are things that are so easy to throw out but much more challenging to take back.  Words are also things that are measured by quality and not quantity.  And words can literally change the path that we or other people take.

How many times have we seen someone of great respect or of high esteem in the public eye shatter their image because of a couple of words?  Or lasting words that people look back on and just shake their heads in befuddlement.  Many times it doesn’t sound that big in the moment but the retrospect just leaves us wondering what they were thinking.  Let’s consider some of these great (and entertaining) ones:

With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market.
Business Week, 1958.

We don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.
Hewlett-Packard’s rejection of Steve Jobs

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.
Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

While these may be something to snicker at a bit now, what is the legacy that your words will leave?  What things said will be our mark?  Will it be someone remembering the kind things we said, the moral support we offered to others, the advice that we pass along to our children or grandchildren.  Or will it be words of hatred, words of pessimism, or maybe words of ignorance or even stupidity.  Words don’t need to be famous to be profound.  I’m sure that most if not all of us can remember things that were said to us 20, 30, or maybe 50 years ago.  It could have been from someone we know, or maybe from someone we just saw one time, but we all have a pouch of words that we tote around for all of our lives.

Words remembered are also words on each end of the spectrum.  How often do we remember words years later that people said that were just ordinary words.  Not really meaningful but just casual conversation.  Not too often.  We remember the exceptional words, either happy or sad, exciting or angry, joyous or traumatizing.  These are the words that mark our souls.

And what about someone you know who just talks and talks and never seems to have anything to say.  We’ve all experienced these from time to time.  Do the words that they say have any value?  Most people never know.  It becomes a classic “boy who cried wolf” scenario.  We turn these people off after a while.  These types of people could walk into a room and scream “I’ve just discovered the cure for cancer and tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers” and nobody would listen.  They have an abundance of words without implementing any value.

Most importantly, it is critical to carefully reflect on words before using them.  At times, words can be deadly weapons.  There are words that have been said to me in my lifetime that have drastically altered the path of my life.  Now I’m not going to be the type of person to say that “so-and-so said this to me and it’s not fair”.  We all choose our own paths and have to act on those words accordingly.  Nonetheless, we also have to understand that we cannot control the reactions people have to the things we say.  There are still things said to me at points in my life that have either inspired me to move a certain direction or enraged me enough to move to a different path.  We have to be willing to accept this and because of this choose our words wisely.  Very few emotions last longer and burn harder than regret.

Carefully choosing our words is not something that we just have.  It is a practiced trait.  An inner art.  It takes discipline and effort.  Moreover, words are one the key shapers of the perspective people apply to us.  Instead of focusing on your words of wisdom, spend some time reflecting on your wisdom of words.

~ by bfmooz on June 13, 2011.

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