Sticks & Stones – The Power of Words

The very words we choose and where we direct them can mean the difference between life and death for any living thing, including ourselves – Unknown

In this week’s episode on the podcast, we talk about how the words we speak are perhaps more powerful than we realise. The words we speak to others, the words we use when we talk about ourselves and the chatter that goes on within also known as self-talk. You might know the saying: sticks and stones may break my bones, but words would never hurt me. “Sticks and Stones” is an English-language children’s rhyme. The rhyme is used as a defence against name-calling and verbal bullying, intended to increase resiliency, avoid physical retaliation and remain calm (Wiki).

Have you ever seen the rice experiment? Masaru Emoto placed rice in three separate beakers and covered them with water, and then every day for a month, he said thank you to one beaker, you’re an idiot to the second and the third one he completely ignored.

Before I share the experiment results, what can we learn about the power of words? Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman did a deep dive into research, and they come to the conclusion that words can literally change our brain. They quote, “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” Positive words, such as “peace” and “love,” can alter the expression of genes, strengthening areas in our frontal lobes and promoting the brain’s cognitive functioning. They propel the motivational centres of the brain into action and build resiliency. Conversely, hostile language can disrupt specific genes that play a key part in the production of neurochemicals that protect us from stress. Hmmm, interesting, right?

So back to the experiment. After a month, the rice that had been thanked started to ferment, giving off a strong pleasant aroma; the rice in the second beaker turned black, and the rice that was ignored began to rot. Emoto thinks this experiment provides a valuable lesson, especially regarding how we treat children like taking care of them and giving them attention, conversing with them.

So what now? According to the authors Newberg and Waldman, using the right words can transform our reality and here are some ways to do this:

By holding a positive and optimistic [word] in your mind, you stimulate frontal lobe activity. This area includes specific language centres that connect directly to the motor cortex responsible for moving you into action. Their research has shown, the longer you concentrate on positive words, the more you begin to affect other areas of the brain. Functions in the parietal lobe start to change, which changes your perception of yourself and the people you interact with. A positive view of yourself will bias you toward seeing the good in others, whereas a negative self-image will include you toward suspicion and doubt.

Also, another vital element to this discussion is verbal abuse. You may not think you are being abused if you’re not being hurt physically. But emotional and verbal abuse can have short-term and long-lasting effects that are just as serious as the effects of physical abuse. Emotional and verbal abuse includes insults and attempts to scare, isolate, or control you. It is also often a sign that physical abuse may follow. Emotional and verbal abuse may also continue if physical abuse starts. If you have been abused, it is never your fault. Click here for more on Verbal Abuse.

On a finishing note, if words hold power, where have we positioned ourselves? What kind of relationships do we find ourselves in? What words are occupying our mental real-estate? Stick and stone may break our bones, and words are powerful so let’s use them with the intent to speak life. It’s a pleasure to come alongside you and until next week take care!