Some people claim that actions matter and words alone don’t count for much.
That philosophy may be popular, but it isn’t based in truth.
Words matter tremendously. Words are actions, and they absolutely do count – at least as much as any other form of action does.
Words influence people. Words create impact, even when you’re not trying to be impactful. Words create ripples. And words incur responsibility.
With words alone you can change the course of someone’s life. You can affect someone well beyond (or contrary to) your intent.
The law recognizes this too. You can go to jail just for your words if you choose the wrong ones, including in countries that profess to have great freedom of speech. And you can most assuredly be sued for your words.
Intent may be considered, but the bigger issue is impact. With your words you could contribute to damaging someone’s health, ending a job or a relationship, or even ending a life.
You could also inspire someone to make a major positive change in their life. You could reduce someone’s stress. You could help form a healthy and positive relationship.
You can have these effects with words alone.
How many transitions would never have occurred if certain words had never been voiced?
How many regrets trace back to words alone, whether spoken or unspoken?
You don’t need a large platform or audience to have impact with your words. A small number of words communicated to one person can be unexpectedly life-changing.
I guarantee you that your words have already affected people – and will continue to affect them – in powerful ways you don’t see at all.
How often have you done some extra processing on someone else’s words but unbeknownst to them? Maybe these were words in a book or article you read. Maybe an offhand comment from a friend got your attention. Maybe a politician’s latest lie made you feel stressed.
Did you always tell the person who wrote these words about their impact on you?
Does it matter that the person may have had a different intent? Can their words still have impact beyond their intent?
Does it matter if the person assumed that words aren’t important?
Does it matter if the person doesn’t see words as having much value? Or if they don’t even remember writing or speaking them?
You could still be deeply affected by words regardless of intent and expectation.
Now consider that your words are doing the same. Even when you don’t intend or expect them to be impactful, they sometimes will be. And this is happening a lot more often than you realize. People just aren’t telling you about the effect your words are having on them. Just as you’re keeping silent about your extra internal processing, so is everyone else around you.
The impact of your words is much greater than your ability to see or measure it.
Words are powerful. Don’t discount or downplay that power. Your words may very well be the most impactful actions of your life in the aggregate, leaving a bigger mark on this world than all of your other actions combined.
Choose your words intelligently, with care and consideration for the hidden impact they can have, whether or not you ever see evidence of that impact.
You can’t fully control how you influence people, but you can make better choices by being sensitive to the impact your words can have. You can consider those unseen impacts. You can choose to speak the truth and to speak with empathy.
Honor your words at least as much as you consider the impact of other actions. Your words are more powerful and influential than you’ll realize.