I adore words. I love languages. But boy, are we unintentional with them. I think it’s about time to stop being so cavalier about their use; so I think it’s something we should talk about.
Words are a powerful thing. You can use them to persuade, encourage, enlighten, comfort, destroy, inspire, discourage, etc. A whole host of actions start with a small string of words. Here are a few ways I personally think we , as a collective body of humans, could be better at speaking with intention.
- Stop over apologizing. Bruh! I am still learning how to unlearn all my over apologizing. I’m sorry! It takes time. But seriously, start now. I was in a conversation with a friend the other day and she used the word sorry at least ten times in a two-minute conversation. STOP IT! Apologizing should not be this place filler that we use when we experience a lack of vocabulary or we are trying to soften a conversation and make other people comfortable. Women are incredibly guilty of this. Choose not to use any apologetic words as place fillers. They are not synonymous with the words “like” or “um”. Overuse undermines your point and it waters down your apology when it is sincerely authentic.
- Read the conversation. Speaking as someone who is incredibly sarcastic, I often miss the mark when it comes to appropriation of my speech. I give too much advice sometimes when people only want me to lend an ear. Sometimes I interrupt unintentionally so that my train of thought is not derailed. I try to liken my experiences with someone else’s. Silence also speaks volumes. Sometimes we need to lend an ear, be empathetic, give advice, etc. Other times we can share a joke, story or witty limerick. Your experiences are not my experiences. Know your audience.
- Be positive. Words can encourage. Seek out new ways to be intentional about encouraging someone else daily. Tell someone they did a good job, they look nice, they said something funny or smart etc. Don’t lie but actively point out if a person is awesome! Encouraging someone always makes me feel encouraged. One of my daily goals is to encourage three people. It isn’t difficult to maintain and I don’t stop there but it helps me to actively pursue positivity.
- Receive or don’t receive people’s words. If you have listened to my podcast, Behind Bluff City , you know a little bit about the receiving and not receiving. My amazing co-host Scovia Wilson taught me this sound advice. If someone gives you a compliment, you can choose to receive it and accept it as truth. If you are given negative feedback, likewise, you can choose to receive it or not. There is no need to justify negativity with more negativity. This gives you the power over how other people’s words affect your day. It is the literal rubber to their glue as the age-old saying goes.
- Understand that less is more. Shakespeare said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Really wish he came to that understanding before some of his plays were written, but nevertheless, still grand intentions. When it comes to being perceived as an intelligent human, sometimes less is more. It’s ok to lament over something before we speak. We don’t constantly have to fill silence with unintelligent banter and filler phrases. (long pause…um…I am LIKE super GUILTY.)
There are probably a great number of ways to bring intention to our speech. I think the best way to start is by understanding that what we say and how we say it speaks volumes to who we are both as individuals and as a society. Choose to speak with love, encouragement, wit and tiny dash of sarcasm.