I still remember vividly the first time someone said that I was ugly. It was 18 years ago, but those words remain as fresh as a paper cut in my soul. We all know what sticks and stones do, and we know from bitter experience that words can do the same … and yet, we tend to forget their power, at least when it comes to the words we use.
You remember the time you were mocked in front of your friends, or the time someone close to you said something careless that pierced your heart. … But do you remember the times when it was you who did the wounding to someone else? It’s a little ironic that we don’t seem to be as guarded with our tongues as we wish others would be.
And this is even more important to understand if you are in a position of authority. Andy Stanley observes that as the leader, your words weigh 1000 pounds. As a kid, you probably hung on every word that your parents said, and the funny thing is, in many ways you’re still the same as a grown up. When someone in a position of authority over you says something, it carries far more weight in your heart than the words of a colleague.
That’s why as leaders we need to be careful to weigh our words when communicating to those we lead. Personally, I’m guilty of neglecting this principle. I can become frustrated and impatient if a task or project isn’t going as smoothly as it should, and I allow those emotions to seep into my words to those working on that project. I forget that constructive feedback will often have a better result and preserve the working relationship in the long term.
This principle works the other way too. Your words of support and encouragement towards someone under you will count for far more in their lives than the words of a peer. As the leader, your tongue has the power of life and death, and it’s up to you which way you choose to use it.
So for the sake of those we lead, and for the sake of those who will one day be lead by them, let’s choose life!
Image credit: gascoignes pig scale by @notnixon flickr.com