What’s In A Word?
Do our word choices shape our destiny?
Did you really mean to say that?
Communication runs in our veins. It is the lifeblood of our network of connections and drastically affects how we experience and feel in the world.
Especially since one of our biggest desires is to feel understood. We hunger to feel connected, to be heard, and to understand the people around us.
We are wired to connect; effective communication strengthens our connections and helps us thrive.
As a child growing up both in a bilingual home and an environment with poor communication skills, I witnessed the cost of failed communication. Misinterpretations of words or not saying the precise words caused long intensive arguments that spiraled down the path of misunderstandings into feelings of isolation and resentment.
Watching my parents go through the cycle over and over again, not realizing the perceived meaning of what they said to each other, repeating the same words but expecting a different reaction . . . Like watching two adults banging their heads against the wall, recoiling from the pain but then banging their heads again and expecting it not to hurt this time.
If it wasn’t so painful to be a child watching this, I would have noticed the comical side of it. That came years later, after my parents got tired of the agonizing interplay and finally divorced.
Probably as a result, I was captivated by words. I remember being a 3-year-old kid pestering my mother with my curiosity: “Why a door is called a door and not bread?” “What’s the difference between angry and furious?”
When I was older I learned that although “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” there was a difference between happy, glad, and delighted; also a difference between curious, inquisitive, and interested. The subtleties of communication started to make more sense.
How do we choose our words better and connect better? Sometimes dictionaries, thesauruses, and other tools are helpful for finding the best word to match what we want to express.
On the other side of communication, we need to rediscover the art of listening, and hearing the intonation and tone of voice accompanying words. We may need to clarify the other person’s intended meaning behind the words. When we feel heard, understood and connected, it elevates us. It’s one of the best feelings there is.
We are in the age of acronyms and shortened speech. Lol, lmao, omg and emoticons are widely used in everyday speech and text messages. Unfortunately, this shortening takes us away from full expression and real connection. No wonder there is so much miscommunication and misunderstanding. We are losing the art and the benefit advantage of the gift that lies in vocabulary of words. Are we reaching the age of the story of Babel?
How much do we really pay attention to our word choices?
For every word, there is a similar one, and although the meaning of the word is quite similar, it can also be very different.
Now in our everyday mundane communication, often the differences between one word and another are insignificant. We understand each other’s’ general meaning, and that is sufficient for basic interaction. The umbrella meaning of a group of words like happy/glad/pleased/great, arriving/coming/will be there, or sad/down/depressed/miserable is broad enough to get the job done.
However, the beauty of deep connection with other people, the real magic of feeling heard and understood, and real closeness lie in the words we choose to use with them. It happens many times in our lives that the smallest choice of words has the ability to change an entire conversation, an entire connection, an entire life experience…
Growing up, I noticed how words were used in creating a dialogue or for stinging out a painful venom. I felt the strong power of words spoken to me – some of those words have been echoing in my being ever since.
Words linger in someone else world long after we have said them, whether they were kind words or not.
I learned that words have the power to break someone. I’ve learned that words have the power to heal someone. I also learned that words can’t be taken back. Once they are spoken, they float in the essence of the person you spoke them to. They can wound or elevate, crush or uplift, encourage or distance. A choice of a word has the power to connect or disconnect, to open up or close us down.
Our words are our foot-mark impression we leave with the people we talk to, our unique shape and pattern that distinguishes us from all the others. Our choice of words defines us in the ears of others.
Words are not only the way we talk to another. Words are also what we say to ourselves in our inner dialogue inside our head. We can heal and build ourselves, or be harsh, demanding and critical with the words we think quietly and say to ourselves…
Deliberate speaking and deliberate listening are all that it will take to bring us out of our 21st century tower of Babel (acronym, emoticons, general speech, etc.), misunderstandings, frustration and feelings of loneliness. It will draw us back together as individuals as well as a society.
The thing is, the better we are able to choose our words about how we feel, what we are thinking, what we would like, and what we do not agree with and why, the better we are able to express ourselves and be understood. The better we are understood and the more connected we feel with others, the better we feel inside ourselves and the more we feel fulfilled. Being understood lets us open up and listen to someone else in the same way and understand them even better. The gift of words is the gift of creating a world that understands us and lets us understand the world.
Speaking with the attention of knowing what we want to convey, how we want the other person to feel hearing our words gives us the opportunity to create a connection, a relationship, a conversation, with more intention and supports us in creating a more deliberate communication.
So even when I’m touched, moved, affected, heartened, impressed, or gratified, or when I’m angry, mad, livid, annoyed, irritated, or cross, I try to choose the words I use carefully, because no matter what, at the end of that ‘triggered rage,’ I want to find a way to connect. If I can be heard, felt and understood, I will feel more connected, cared about, and important in the world. At the end of the chain of all words, I want them to lead me to feel open, to make others feel open. To feel loved, to show love, to live love.
The next time you’re about to reply to someone either by text or in person, stop for a second and ask yourself what you are really trying to say. How would you like the other person to feel? What words can you use to help you create a better connection? How will the other perceive your words? Find the best way to express your message in order to be understood.
When you are about to send someone a text with an emoticon or an acronym or with just a short word, stop and think how important this connection is. How important is it for you to deepen this connection and create something a bit more profound with this person? Perhaps then you can find another word or a few to fill out your message.
Let’s try to express ourselves truly through our words and to choose them carefully to mean what we really want to convey. Think of choosing your words from the mind and ear of the person who will hear them and translate them into their understanding. When someone says something to us that feels short and unclear, let’s help them and us by asking them to explain what they mean.
Imagine what connections are possible for us if we only use our words a bit more inventively with a tad of thought and choice.
This article was written with an open Thesaurus and an online dictionary – both were used frequently and in conjunction. I’ve tried my best to choose my words carefully, thinking about you, the reader, and how I would like you to feel while reading and after reading this article.
My latest word exploration were the words Authentic and Genuine – I was wondering which one of them would represent best how I aspire to be. In the past, I automatically chose ‘authentic.’
Yet, today on T.V. I heard the word ‘genuine’ used in a way that reminded me of how I use ‘authentic.’ So I looked up both words. They are some similarities between the two, yet once again, there are differences. I chose Genuine – it feels more right to me in its definition.
My intention in this post is to create a curiosity in you, a feeling of empowerment, a new open place that is aware of the possibilities for creating better connections, both with others and with yourself.
I hope I have managed to inspire in you an inquisitiveness and the will to explore the world of words. To explore connections from a new perspective, with a more clarified intention.
And most of all, I hope that reading this article has sparked some new thoughts and a new awareness of the power resting in the words you choose to say…