I’ve been thinking about the power of words lately. Particularly about the power of positive words. But before I get to that, I need to explain the back story.
I don’t know if you’re like me at all, but a hurtful word or cruel criticism can easily ruin my day. I can replay a negative comment in my head for weeks, and unfortunately, in some areas of my life it can really rock my confidence. This turns into a terrible cycle where because my confidence gets shaken and because of this I’m leery of taking risks and because I am not taking risks, I’m missing learning opportunities and so on and so forth. You get the point. It’s a nasty cycle.
Words have a lot of power.
So, back to strong words. I’ve been doing clinical placements at a hospital and as a student have been living in a very clear power differential. Preceptors/staff have power. Students have no power. Clients/patients have questionable power. The implications of these power dynamics are so vast and I’d need a million blog posts to explain it all. I’m just trying to give the context that I often felt like I was at the will of the “system” and had to just bide my time and learn what I could.
But somewhere during all of these placements, I had a stark realization (It’s sad how long it took me to figure this out)…my words could be my power.
It started in the breastfeeding clinic. People don’t generally come to a breastfeeding clinic to see a lactation consultant when everything is hunky dory. No, the often come when there is a concern with their baby’s weight gain, or milk production, or latch or what seems like a million other possibilities. Mother after mother (and often couples) would come in looking exhausted, confused, sore and worried. Generally overwhelmed. One of the nurses that I worked with would often tell women that they were doing a really good job (because they were!)
Then I stated to do this. I would look a woman in the eye and say, “You are doing a really incredible job. Your baby is well loved and so cared for!” Then I held the eye contact. Of course, I was saying these things because they were true.
And you know what? I could see it in their eyes. Words have power.
Then I decided to try my “kind truth speaking” to people who have power above me. I told the wonderful nurses that I was working with specific things I appreciated about their care (often these things were about how they treated clients with dignity and respect and- and mostly, how they used their words).
None of this is rocket science. But as I used my words to speak the truth that I was seeing to people, I felt like I was regaining some of my own power that I felt was lost to the system (based on my student status).
But I am getting better at speaking words that grow souls. Jussie would call this “naming the things we see in people.”
During the marathon there were loads of strangers cheering and all of their words helped us keep going.
“You’ve worked hard for this.”
“Today is a great day for a run.”
“This is your day!”
Ann Voskamp taught me about the idea of speaking words that build up.
Enough words for now.