This is the fourth in our series of articles about The 8 Keys of Excellence, which serve as a foundation for our leading residential teen summer camp, SuperCamp. See our Intro article as well as links to previous Key articles here: The 8 Keys of Excellence: Principles to Live By.
Speak honestly and kindly. Think before you speak and make sure your intention is positive and your words are sincere.
Words are powerful! They can uplift and enlighten, or put down and depress. A few cutting words spoken in a moment of anger can affect us for a long time, perhaps even a lifetime. On the other hand, a few kind words can make a very positive difference in how we feel about ourselves . . . sometimes also for a lifetime.
What we say to others—and to ourselves—can have a huge impact. Speaking with good purpose is about always considering the intention of our words. It’s about communicating directly, clearly, honestly, and with a positive purpose. The first step is awareness. If we always think before we speak instead of just blurting out whatever comes to mind, we can learn to consider the reason for our words and make sure we are speaking with good purpose . . . will our words build someone up or put them down? We all sometimes have negative thoughts, but we don’t have to say everything we think.
Why speak with good purpose?
Communication is the bridge between people—it’s the glue that holds relationships together. Your relationships thrive or fade depending on the quality of the communication between you and the other person. Speaking with good purpose is the cornerstone of healthy relationships. It fosters a positive emotional environment where people are more connected and happier.
Speaking with good purpose can be a challenge—it takes courage, effort, and practice. But when you master this skill the quality of your relationships will change and you’ll find the satisfaction of deep, meaningful connections with others that you may not have had before.
Think about the power of words in your life. Maybe years ago your friend said you had a “retarded smile,” or a long-ago teacher discouraged your progress in math with “you’re no good at numbers”—and you still remember those words. Hurtful comments can stay with us a long time. Whoever came up with that rhyme about “sticks and stones” was wrong. Words can hurt, and most of us have experienced words that hurt.
Look for those positive words, words that build up, words that heal. There are times when a few kind words make all the difference. Have you ever had someone whisper, “I believe you can do it,” just when you needed to hear it the most? Words really matter.
Think before you speak
How can you make sure you’re speaking with good purpose? How do you make it happen? How do you direct your speech to build strong relationships?
Begin by thinking about your words … think before you speak. Ask yourself, Am I going to say something useful right now? Will my words be encouraging or damaging? Will my words build up or break down the person I’m speaking to and/or our relationship? Positive communication is a habit. It’s a matter of training yourself to monitor your thoughts before they become speech. With practice you’ll learn to focus on giving words to positive thoughts, recognizing people’s strengths, and offering praise and encouragement.
Share negative thoughts with care
We don’t have to avoid expressing negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences, but it’s best to recognize them for what they are and decide whether or not we need to say them, as well as how we will say them.
If it’s simply a random unpleasant thought—you don’t like a person’s whiny tone or wish someone wasn’t so pushy—acknowledge the thought and let it go. Choose not to give it the power of spoken words. But if it’s something that needs resolution, you may need to express it. Handle these times carefully. Think about the intention of your words and ask yourself if they’re meant to support the person and build a stronger relationship? Are they focused on finding a solution?
There will be times when we need to share critical thoughts. At these times, if our purpose and how we phrase our words is considered first, sharing honest and direct feedback can be very positive and powerful, and build trust.
The power of speaking with good purpose
Speaking with good purpose allows us to harness the awesome power of our words. When we speak positively, honestly, and directly, with the goal of keeping relationships strong, words cease to be a random force and begin to show their positive power in our relationships and in our lives.
Think in ink
What messages do you like to receive from other people? We all like to receive positive, kind messages from others, messages that make us feel good about ourselves.
Think about what messages you give to others . . . anybody. Not just your best friends or family members. Do you ever put people down or say things that make them feel less than positive? Are you aware that everything speaks? Your attitude, you facial expressions, everything can send a message as clear as your words.
What messages are you giving to yourself? Do you use a lot of negatives about yourself, like can’t, won’t, or don’t? Do you send yourself I’m not good enough messages?
The truth is that the essence of your communication determines the responses you get—from others as well as from yourself. What messages are you sending to the world around you . . . and to yourself?
Think about how speaking with good purpose shows up in your life and write your thoughts about the following questions:
- What is something a person said to me that made me feel really good about myself?
- What is something I said to someone that made them feel really good? How did they respond?
- What has someone said to me in the past that was unkind? How did it make me feel? How did I feel about the person who said it?
- When was a time I didn’t think before I spoke, and spoke unkindly to someone? How might the other person have felt? How did it make me feel when I thought about it?
- Did I really need to say it at all? If so, could I have communicated what I wanted to say in a kinder way, but still with honesty?
- Why is it important to think of other people’s feelings when I’m talking to them or about them?
- Why is it important to say positive things to myself as well as to others?
- What can I do to remember to think before I speak, consider the intention of my words, and speak honestly and kindly?
“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves, ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”
About the Contributor: Since 1982, SUPERCAMP, Monthly Mentor, has inspired and empowered thousands of teens to feel confident and motivated, and to excel in school and beyond. SuperCamp offers six-, seven-, and ten-day residential programs for students in middle school, high school, and first-year college. Living on a college campus is a great experience for teens and most of our grads go directly to a four-year college after high school. As teens from around the world gather at SuperCamp, they are inspired to believe in themselves and their ability to achieve, and they acquire learning and life skills that empower them to thrive in all areas of their life. Read More…
(See what some recent grads have to say about SuperCamp at www.supercamp.com/student-testimonials.)