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The Power of a Single Word

Updated on January 31, 2014
The Power of a Single Word
The Power of a Single Word | Source

Language is a powerful thing; much more powerful than most people realize.

The simple words we use can instruct, assist, uplift, or discourage, tear down, and offend. By using different tones, facial expressions, and even volumes, we can convey different meanings, change our message from positive to negative, and even alert someone to danger.

Language has been used to elevate one’s status, convey meaning to different groups of people in a variety of ways, and even change one’s identity.

One’s use of words can land them a job or cause them to be rejected, calm a woman’s spirit or inflame it, calm a child’s fears or cause them, and even to mend relationships or end them.

There are even a number of sayings about words. I’m sure you’ll recognize them.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

“Actions speak louder than words.”

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

It’s easy to downplay the effect words have on us and others. If we were to really admit how strong the power of words have over us, we would also have to take responsibility for all of those words that have escaped without our permission, and all of those we didn’t say.

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The Effect Words Have on People

With a single word we can change the entire outlook of a person, make them feel anything we’d like, and even change life as they know it.

The words “I love you” or “I appreciate you” may mean everything to an individual who has never heard them before. Even “I’m sorry” when you don’t feel like you did anything wrong could be just the opening someone needs to apologize themselves.

I want you to consider single words. I’m not talking about a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph, or even an entire story, but the effect that any one of these single words might have on everything you’ve always thought and believed, and how you feel about the future.

Consider each of them separately if you will, rather than as a list, to truly understand their power.

Beautiful

Helpful

Successful

Ugly

Dying

Divorce

Cancer

Forgiveness

Cheated

Dead

Hired

Hope

Happiness

Repossession

Stupid

Selfish

Loved

Trusted

Surgery

Disease

Understood

Fired

Yes

No

Of course, some of these words are going to mean more to some of you than others. You may have a personal connection, you may remember a moment, a smell, a color, or a specific person in your life, and some of you may be brought to tears.

If words didn’t have the effect on us that they do, writers would have no future, there would be no reason to record anything, and books would not be so treasured.

Even the words of toddlers and elementary students are put on refrigerators all over the world to remember, to reminisce, and to show our children how proud we are of them.

Of course the actions that go along with the words you use are important, but without words, there would be no meaning.

The Power of a Single Word
The Power of a Single Word | Source

Positive Words and What They Mean

When you read the words “beautiful, helpful, successful, forgiveness, hired, hope, happiness, loved, trusted, and understood,” hopefully you felt good things.

When you say positive things to others, you give them hope, you help them to feel good themselves, and you may even be giving them a reason for living.

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for young adults between the ages of 20 to 24, taking the lives of at least 35,000 individuals every year.

For many of these people, they simply don’t believe that they are loved, that they are worth anything, or that there is any reason for them to continue being on Earth because no one will notice when they are gone anyway.

All of their lives they are likely hearing all of the negative words you read above. (NIMH)

But studies show that one positive statement towards an individual intending to commit suicide can save as many as 50% of these individuals. Most people who commit suicide (or want to) don't want to die; they just want to stop hurting. (HelpGuide)

People need positivity in their lives, and words are one of the strongest ways they can get it. As many individuals don’t get the support they need or desire from their loved ones, they seek out the attention, acceptance, and love of all others in the world.

You can be a positive influence in another’s life just by offering them a “good morning,” a simple compliment or some words of appreciation, or even a “thank you.”

Your words have much more power than you believe.

Negative Words and What They Mean

Instead of support and positivity, those in this world have been trained to take care of themselves. “If you don’t do it, no one else is going to, right?”

However, marketing, advertising, and the media show us every day that we are not as good as we can be.

We should be achieving more, making more money, and wearing more expensive clothes. If we are not driving the expensive car, getting the expensive engagement ring, or even buying jewelry for our loved ones on important holidays, we are not successful.

Everyone seems to be driven towards a goal that most don’t even care for, simply because they think they are supposed to. However, because they are fighting for the “ultimate” dream, too many fail or are driven into the ground trying to get there.

This leaves just about everyone feeling sorry for themselves, angry, with a low self-esteem, and absolutely no confidence, which comes out in the way they treat others.

So people are then calling others names, belittling them, blaming them for things they have not done, and in general, overreacting to everyday situations, essentially tearing others apart with their words to feel better about themselves.

Have you heard about the common pattern of yelling? The boss yells at his employee, who then goes home and yells at his wife, who then yells at her children, who then yell at and kick the dog.

Negative words are a contagious, painful, searing disease that spreads rapidly in an effort to release anger, and many times avoid accountability.

What would happen, do you think, if instead each person made an extra effort to be friendly, helpful, kind and encouraging? What if individuals made an effort to keep others from feeling the way they do and offered kind words instead of criticism?

The world would be a different place.

The Power of a Single Word
The Power of a Single Word | Source

I’m not saying that words have the power to create world peace, but might it be possible?

Your words, especially your negative words, have a power over people and over situations that you would never believe. Make a point to watch the consequences of your negative words in the lives of others, and then make a change and watch what happens when you are friendly instead.

Everyone creates their own environment and their own situations.

Constantly yelling, screaming, criticizing and blaming others for your feelings and problems will only create that many more. You will feel that much worse as people begin avoiding you, disliking you, and treating the way you felt like everyone treated you in the first place.

It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy that many get wrapped up in. So create a positive one!!

Say “good morning,” “good afternoon,” “how are you doing?” “please,” and “thank you,” and the world around you will start to change.

Treat others with respect, ask after their families and their well-being, offer your help, and offer encouraging words, and just as quickly, that environment you thought was so negative will change before your eyes.

What’s funny is that the power of simple words have more power over you than you think.

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© 2014 Victoria Van Ness

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    • VVanNess profile image
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      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      Thank you for the beautiful addition to my comments page. I love your thoughts and opinions! :)

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      This is great! Words certainly do make a huge impression on everyone and we need to think about the ones we use and maybe change some of them! I particular like your sentence 'Negative words are a contagious, painful, searing disease'. Sadly that's so true.

      Words are my work, not just in my writing but in my career as a teacher, an English/literacy teacher. I'm fascinated by them and a bit of a purist when it comes to usage! You've put forward a clear, important message here, to use our words carefully and try to make our own world a better place. Good for you! Well done! A smile and a 'good morning' says it all. Have a great evening! Ann

    • VVanNess profile image
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      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      I agree wholeheartedly. I can repeat every negative word ever said to me by both of my parents, and every positive one. Same for my husband. Ugly words sting and stick, and they haunt you for the rest of your life after being said, no matter what has been said or done to make up for them.

      Positive words continue to uplift you throughout your life as well. :) We should all be choosing to uplift others and make their lives better, possibly being the only positive words they've ever heard, rather than the opposite.

      Thank you so much for your wonderful thought-provoking comment!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      Victoria, words are indeed powerful. I once heard a saying that went something like "the tongue is a deadly weapon". And it's true. You can never take back ugly words. "I'm sorry" doesn't make them go away. They get buried deep into your psyche. Positive words, on the other hand have the same power. I know which side of the spectrum I choose. We need to think before we blurt out ugliness. When kindness rules the tongue, the world is a better place.

    • VVanNess profile image
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      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      Cygnet, what a wonderful thing you did for so many people!! I bet you saved the life of every individual who talked to you on the phone. And I bet it was way more than 50%. Nice job!

      Eric, Thanks!! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

      Thank you both for your comments!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Great hub. Very true stuff and thanks for the reminder

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Donna Brown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri

      As I was reading your hub, I stopped and thought about the fact that 50% of suicides are avoided by helpful people on the other end of the phone. I remember years ago when I worked a suicide hotline. I can't remember anyone who I talked to ever actually following through. I guess my words really did make a difference.

    • VVanNess profile image
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      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      I wholeheartedly agree. It kills me that it's okay and even normal to speak down to others.

      Thank you for the great comment!

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Thank you for sharing a beautiful article about a very important subject. As you write in your article positive words can have quite a big effect if it can save as many as 50% of the people who try to take their life.

      Words can indeed be quite powerful so it's better to be wise and kind. As a teacher I was weighing every single word in my comments on the report cards of my students. I strongly believed in being positive and encouraging.

      Unfortunately, most of the politicians don't do a good job in showing the right example! Their attitude shows that it's OK to insult others. Very sad!

    • VVanNess profile image
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      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      And terrible if used in the wrong way. Thank you for your wonderful comment!

    • robertpalmisano profile image

      robertpalmisano 3 years ago

      I enjoy your writing about Words they do a beautiful job and are helpful in every way.....They make folks feel good if used in the right way..

    • VVanNess profile image
      Author

      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      I'm so glad. I didn't think this article quite turned it the way I originally planned.

      Thanks you for your consistent encouragement! :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Something that goes unnoticed when you do recipes is the fact that you are an excellent writer. Your voice shines through in this beautiful piece that speaks much truth. Well done Victoria. This is excellent writing.