So I had two experiences this past week that made me really think about how much power there is in the language that we use with others. These experiences have made me reflect deeply on how I have been using language with my students and my colleagues, and how often the language that I use, and how I use it, actually inspires another person to feel better about themselves or their day. Our language, both body and verbal, is the single most important tool that we have which can affect another person’s mood, the mindset of a classroom full of students, a relationship with a friend, a kid, or a colleague, and the overall culture of a school. Using positive and direct language is the key to developing strong and lasting relationships in my opinion, and the key to how we feel about ourselves deep down as individuals and as leaders. The language that we use shapes who we are, as well as the impact that we have on those around us. It takes skill, practice, and courage to think before we speak, and to ensure that what comes out of our mouths is actually going to be received in the way that we intended it. Words have the power to crush a person’s spirit or to inspire them to be the best that they can be. Words can change a person’s day instantly for the better or for the worse, and in many cases we don’t even give our language a second thought. We often say things that have a profound impact on another person’s mood or day or self-esteem and we don’t even realize it… and that just isn’t good enough.
The first experience happened late last week, and it came from one of my teacher leaders in the Middle School. She gave me a compliment just when I needed it the most, and I’m sure that she had no idea how important those words were to me at that time. You see, I was having a tough day, dealing with some difficult issues, and her kind words instantly re-framed my mood, and gave me the extra boost of confidence that I needed to deal with these issues head on. I often joke that I can live on a single compliment for a month, but there’s some truth to that. We all need a boost once in a while, and I wonder how much conscious thought we give to recognizing verbally the positive contributions that others have on our lives. Words always cost a great deal even though they are free, and often times they cost more when they’re not said at all. When was the last time that you thanked a colleague, or a student, for changing your day for the better? How often do you purposefully go out of your way to compliment, or to use positive language with every one of your students and colleagues…every month…every week…every day? Do you ever think about the body language that you’re using when you have your dozens and dozens of interactions with people each and every day at school? Our language is the most powerful thing that we have, but I don’t think we take advantage of the power that it has as much as we should.
The second experience happened early last week with one of my Middle School kids. He made a mistake (like we all do), and I came down on him pretty hard. My direct words had a profound impact on him I think, and after the initial jolt they allowed us to strengthen our relationship, and for him to gain a clear understanding of our high expectations as a school, and the importance of learning life lessons. Using direct language with kids, and colleagues, is so important to developing a strong school culture. Saying what you mean, and meaning what you say is the way to garner respect, and to have you viewed by others as a person of integrity. Often times we’re afraid to say what we really want to say, and we sugar coat or tip toe around the root of an issue. We often don’t have the courage to address a problem because it’s difficult, but all that does is make the issue worse and build resentment. Honestly, it’s all about HOW you say something…difficult conversations can be framed with positive intent, and in a way that doesn’t make it about the other person necessarily…just about the issue itself. Having the courage to have these direct conversations is what leadership is all about in my opinion, and the only way that a school, and the relationships within a school can truly move forward for the better. If you choose your language carefully, then in most instances It’s okay to speak to kids like adults…the can handle it…and they will respond in a way that will impress you beyond your initial expectation.
I’m asking you all this week to think about the language that you use, and how you use it. Does your language inspire…are you saying what you need to say in a positive way…are you giving the compliments to the people who positively impact you as a person…and are you using your language to develop strong and lasting relationships. Language has power, and it’s time that we all consciously thought about that…and acted on it. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…
I can live for two months on a good compliment – Mark Twain
Articles around the Power of Positive Language:
TED Talk – Kathryn Schulz – On Being Wrong
Inspiring Videos…older ones but still profound