Words Matter

(Image: Keflavik Airport, Iceland. Its contrast to my post struck me.)

A few years ago, I wrote a couple of blog posts about the lack of interactive and thoughtful discourse (part one & part two). I’ve been thinking about this topic again recently as I’ve watched the ability to have rational conversation deteriorate in America with little visible hope that our behavior will change in the near future. We recoil any time we hear or read something that conflicts with our worldviews. Instead of pausing to absorb the message we took in and understand where that person or group is coming from, the new “proper” response is to lash out and tell them why they are wrong. How dare someone disagree with me!

I’m also lamenting the rhetoric I see more and more, particularly online, about people’s feelings about political figures. Strong emotions of disdain and hate are openly expressed about individuals. I’ve seen statements of “If you support this candidate, I’m not sure I want you in my life.” Even if I happen to align with someone who states that, I am given much reason to pause. That position is a dangerous one and is reflective of a heart unaccepting of anyone in the “other” category. It is hardly an inclusive one that many have say they want our country to have and represent or even personally claim to live out.

Our words matter.

And it’s not just in the political landscape and conversation. It’s our everyday conversations that have a significant personal impact. How we respond (or don’t) to a friend who’s struggling through a difficult situation matters. How we communicate our thoughts to our audience from friends to family to anyone, who follows you online matters. The way we discuss and debate any idea must be respectful.

The message is our head may be clear to us, but the delivery of that message is just as important as what you want to convey.

The phrase, “Actions speak louder than words,” still carries a lot of weight. But in a time when our primarily and perhaps the only mode of communication with others is the written word, your choice of tone and words will profoundly impact many lives, often in ways you will not fully comprehend. So be cautious, respectful, and thoughtful in your responses and idea sharing. Take your time. It’s not always most important to be first to reply or speak. Every impression you leave builds the bigger picture of how people see and define you in their eyes; make it count and what you want it to be.