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Why Leaders Mind Their Words

An oldie but goodie phrase is, “You are what you eat.” There’s another phrase that is just as true: “You are what you say.”

Words are powerful. They can galvanize masses and also destroy a soul; they bring unthinkable joy and uttermost damage.

While we may not disagree that words are influential, we fail to appreciate that everyday words can have the same impact as the Gettysburg Address.

Did you know you are influenced by your own words?

It’s true. Words that come out of your mouth must first be formed in your mind, the seat of your character.

Your words are more than an indication of character - they have the power to change your character.

Often, under momentary impulse, words are spoken out of anger or fear that you generally don’t believe to be true. However, the expression of those words reacts on the thoughts.

If the words are spoken enough, the thoughts began to reshape the mind, even if the mind knows they are not true.

Especially if the words are spoken in the presence of others, ego then comes in and we are too proud to retract what we said, even though we didn’t believe it in the first place. Therefore, we go out of our way to state we are right until we believe we are.

Here’s a practical, yet sad example. In elementary school, my best friend was considered odd by others in our class. At first, I didn’t care because she was fun to be around and recess was always so enjoyable due to her wonderful imagination.

However, there was a group of popular girls who thought she was strange and created a club specifically to exclude her. They invited me to join.

As someone who has always wanted to be popular and yet never made it, this invite was exciting to me. So, one recess I dumped my best friend and joined the club of popular girls.

The reality was that my best friend was someone I truly enjoyed being with and I had spent the better part of two years playing with her every recess. Yet, for one recess I joined the popular girls talking down about her. By the end of that 20 minute period I began to believe the things that were said, even though I knew they weren’t true.

Despite what I knew to be true by experience, the spoken word changed my opinion about my friend. Sadly, even though I decided I enjoyed my friend more than the popular girls in the club and left, the damage was done.

Not only was my friend hurt and our foundational trust damaged, but I also never returned to the same thoughts about her. The soundtrack in my mind had changed because of words I spoke that I didn’t believe.

The habit of careless and critical comments eventually fosters an irreverent and critical spirit.

It’s a nasty cycle that should never be started. Yet, if you have started that cycle (and maybe nurtured it), the good news is it is possible to break it.

Here’s how to do it. Set aside 3-5 minutes each day to say positive words out loud about someone or something. It can be about your spouse, children, in-laws, boss, colleagues, yourself, or anything you struggle to think positively about.

Phrases such as, “She is so rude,” could be changed to, “She may frustrate me, but I know she is a wife and mother and has struggles I know nothing about.”

Or, “Why can’t I get anything right? I keep making bad eating choices and now I’m a fat slob,” can be changed to, “I have made poor choices in the past, but just for this meal I’m going to eat well and stop eating when I’m full.”

Authentic leaders use the power of positive words to be with themselves and their team.

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