HELP with Kind WordsJun 19, 2023
WORDS SAVE THE DAY
I believe words were created to be kind. That in the beginning of the life of words, they were filled with kindness, love and empathy.
Imagine the world where every single word spoken or written was a kind word. Imagine the lives that would be changed, helped and released to make a difference.
Kind words are the world’s only real superpower.
But somewhere along the line, a villain got their hands on words and perverted and tainted them. They created unkind words. Very soon words were turned into a terrible power that could be used to dismantle, disrupt and demean other human beings.
Now every leader on the planet has a crucial decision to make when it comes to using their words. Will I speak with kindness or will I speak unkind words?
“Imagine what our real neighbors would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person,” Fred Rogers once said. “There have been so many stories about the lack of courtesy, the impatience of today's world, road rage and even restaurant rage. Sometimes, all it takes is one kind word to nourish another person. Think of the ripple effect that can be created when we nourish someone. One kind, empathetic word has a wonderful way of turning into many.”
Mr. Rogers was so correct about his assessment of words. Kind words are healthy words. Kind words breathe life into another human being.
Imagine that someone is having a very hard time breathing and one of their family members rushes them to the ER. A doctor and nurse assess the patient and immediately decide to place an oxygen mask on the patient and within seconds the oxygen helps them breathe.
It eases their lungs and brings back the color in their face. It provides hope as it sends life back into their body. This is what kind words do when you speak them into someone else. You breathe life into their whole being.
Words were meant to create healthy communication. Words when used correctly and in a healthy way, are a superpower for the leader using them. There is just nothing better than kind words.
Why? Because healthy communication is oxygen for our relationships and leadership.
IDENTIFY THE VILLAIN
Communication is a gift that every leader gets to steward and use every single day. Every leader on the planet gets to decide if they will use healthy or unhealthy words. Leaders who choose healthy communication become superheroes. Leaders who choose unhealthy communication become villains.
I know some of you are probably shaking your heads in disagreement and thinking it can’t be that simple. But, time and time again, superheroes choose to use healthy communication. They breathe life into our sometimes dark and dreary world, while villains choose unhealthy communication because it’s easier at times to speak unkind, and unhealthy words. It just is. It’s that simple.
Maybe you’re struggling to figure out what if you’re a superhero or a villain with your communication. You wonder if unkind communication has slipped into your life and leadership. Well, here is a simple list to help you figure out if you’re a villain with your communication:
- There is a constream of passive aggressive words and phrases
- You leave people wondering what you meant after you spoke with them
- You allow inappropriate joking to go too far
- Your conversations are riddled with bitterness, anger and agitation
- Your words are filled with bigotry and hate
- You consistently demean others
- Put downs are a normal part of your communication
This is just a small sampling of how villains use unkind words in their communication.
Years ago, unfortunately, I embraced some of these toxic superpowers. I’m not proud of it and I’m ashamed now, but I have worked hard over the years to try to eradicate them from my communication.
There was a time, when I led meetings with my interns, that I was like Louis from the TV show ‘Suits’. If you have never seen it, it’s really worth it. It’s a great show that highlights healthy and unhealthy leadership and communication. One of the primary characters is a lawyer named Louis Litt. He is brash, emotional, uncontrollable, and his words are piercing, hurtful and explosive. I wasn’t that bad, but I was close. There were times when I knew my interns were just hoping and waiting for me to finish a meeting so they could run from my presence.
When I finally found out that I caused fear in them, I was crushed! What did I expect though? I had become a villain by using some of the things from the list above. I would push and push, and if they didn’t get something done on time or the way I wanted, I would demean them. I was passive aggressive and at times I was rude. Again, I am so heartbroken that I allowed that kind of unkind communication to flow out of my leadership.
So what changed for me? I was challenged to come over to the good side!
Roy T. Bennett’s words really hit me hard. “Be the reason someone smiles. Be the reason someone feels loved and believes in the goodness in people.”
That’s what I wanted. I no longer wanted to lead and communicate through fear and control, but I wanted to lead through kindness.
There is a much better way to communicate and the decision is all yours. Instead of embracing the toxic superpowers, do the opposite. Embrace kindness. Partner with kindness. Use the superpowers of kind communication in your leadership and you will see your world drastically change for the better!
EMBRACE THE SUPERPOWER
If you don’t know where to begin, here is some H.E.L.P. with choosing kindness in your communication. Yes, this is a simple acronym, but even though it's simple, the execution can be pretty complex.
Honest. Encouraging. Loving. Pivotal.
Be honest with your words. Before you speak, ask yourself, ‘Is what I’m about to say honest’? So often we hold back our 100% honest thoughts because we don’t want to hurt the other person. And, we all know that our thoughts aren’t 100% correct, so it’s not always wise to share all of them. So what do we do? Lead with the truth. The truth is powerful and will help the person we’re speaking to. Every day we are faced with an amazing amount of opportunities to be dishonest with our words. Do everything that you can to fight against being dishonest. The truth is always better, even though it will be so much harder at times. Yes, we all want to be honest, but are we? Honesty makes all the difference.
Be encouraging with your words. Ask yourself, ‘Is what I'm about to say helpful, kind, uplifting, considerate, thoughtful, supportive?' It is so easy to be discouraging with our words. Fight the urge to discourage, and instead, encourage. If you want to lash out with angry words, take 10 seconds before you speak. Use that time to reframe your mindset and think through encouraging words you can share and then do just that.
Be loving with your words. Aren’t encouraging and loving words the same? Yes, they have very similar qualities, but loving words are centered around expressing affection, care, and tenderness. They seek to convey emotions of love, compassion, and support. They focus on expressing admiration, appreciation, and emotional connection. That means that your words can’t be dripping with self-absorption. Rather, they are focused on someone else. So ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say others-focused?”
Be pivotal with your words. Our words can create worlds, shape ideas, and stick with us over an entire lifetime. Speak words that will inspire someone to create something new or to keep going. We all need people in our lives who will speak leadership and help to challenge and motivate. So, don’t waste opportunities to be pivotal with your words. Ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say challenging?”
When it comes to our words, we have so much power. Like the hip-hop band Snap said in their one hit wonder, ‘I got the power', you really do. As a leader, you can be a superhero or a villain. It’s really your choice. You can make the decision. You have been given everything you need.
Once I left the dark side, I kept waiting to see the look of fear in my intern’s eyes. I kept watching and waiting, meeting after meeting. When I decided to embrace kind communication and breathing life into the people I led, everything changed. I was healthier, my team was healthier, and we accomplished so much more together.
It’s time to leave the dark side if you’ve been embracing unkind communication. Make the switch. Come over to the good guys. When you do, you will not regret it.
By Jason Raitz - Founder & President of Speak with People
Jason is a communication coach who has helped people implement healthy communication strategies in their lives for over 25 years.