Empathy and Why Our Words Matter
We know the "sticks and stones" adage is a juvenile playground rhyme. It's also not true.
Sometimes words hurt like hell.
But what if the opposite is true?
What if words can heal?
Research has proven the power of language. We prove the power of our words every day, even if it's anecdotal.
Empathy begins with listening. But when empathy speaks, it speaks hope.
I was at a coffee shop in Atlanta last week. The guy taking my order was a bit grumpy and seemed ready to go home. This goes both ways. Yes - every person in the workforce must do their job, whether they feel like it or not. If that job is being a smiling face to customers, guests, and clients - so be it.
I also have no clue what's happening in the life of this person.
At this point, my words matter.
I can return grumpy with grumpy. This will only result in grumpier.
Empathy doesn't do that. Empathy assumes the best and returns grumpy with kindness and hope.
There's a chance kind and hopeful words (and maybe even a buck in the tip jar) will change the narrative for the day.
Encouragement and Hope
Hopeful words can have a profound impact on those around you, even beyond the grumpy dude at the coffee shop. There is something objectively powerful with the words, "You've got this. You can do it." And it's not so much the words of encouragement, as the hope words can produce.
Our words matter.
Hope in Instruction
Instruction and correction, infused with empathy and hope, is a powerful change agent. When we've taken the time to listen and understand - even corrective words can be life-giving. We've each been on the receiving end of heartless derision, in the name of helpful instruction. It results in demotivating hopelessness.
Empathetic instruction is full of hope. This should be our aim.
Because our words matter, whether written or spoken.
Words can bring healing and hope.
And words can incite grumpiness.
Thinking and speaking with empathy makes a difference.