It’s amazing really – the impact that a few syllables strung together and directed at another human being can have. Whether written or spoken, once shared, words are in the universe forever. It’s cliché, but so true. Once you share them, you cannot take them back. And they will remain etched in someone’s memory, for better or worse.
Used wisely and with love, words have the ability to light up the world, one sentence at a time. The genuine compliment that you take the time to pay someone? Nothing compares to the good it does their soul. Validation and recognition are gifts so simply given, yet they have value beyond measure to the recipient.
Someone I have known in a professional capacity for a long time paid me a compliment yesterday. She took a moment out of her day to say something nice about one of my blog posts in a comment on Facebook. A number of people take time to say nice things and it lifts me up. I am so grateful for every comment.
But, this particular comment by this particular commenter reminded me of a time many years ago where she went out of her way to make a positive impact in my life with her words. It was simple, really. I was working in an entry-level position, fresh out of college and she (a successful executive) invited me into her office for a discussion. I forget exactly what the words were but, basically, she praised my hard work, intelligence and abilities and encouraged me to set goals and aim high, saying she felt that I could excel and that I need not plan on staying a receptionist forever. While, I’m pretty sure I’ve told her a time or two over the years, possibly after a few drinks, this affected me in monumental ways – ways in which, I’m sure, she cannot possibly imagine.
I was a (very) young mother who fought hard to get a college education while working at McDonald’s and caring for very young kids and who, out of pure luck, landed a government job. My situation at home was not good, and I was feeling a little like an imposter in this new, professional environment. Her words, quite literally, changed the course of not only my career, but my entire life. I knew from the moment I left her office that I was going do everything I could to live up to what she believed I was capable of. I walked out of that meeting with a blossoming sense of self worth and confidence. As dramatic as it sounds, that 1o or 15 minute meeting contributed to giving me the courage to grow into the person I am today. And, thanks to the time she gave me and the words she spoke to me, I am living a life I never would have thought possible back then.
Her comment yesterday was extremely timely. I’m facing a challenging time in my career right now and have been feeling stressed and edgy facing the unknown. Having her appearing in my virtual world was a reminder of all she taught me back then, in that meeting and as I watched her career successfully progress over the years: work hard, be your best self and, eventually, all will work out as it should. I’m so grateful for that reminder!
Sadly, all too often, many of us walk through life too busy and distracted to provide positive feedback to the people we are surrounded by. We might notice a wonderful quality or strength in someone but, for any number of reasons, we never tell them how amazing we think they are. Or, worse, despite appreciating all the wonderful attributes in the people around us, we harp on the flaws. Or we snark. We go out of our way to point out the bad and, rarely, acknowledge the good.
Our Words, Our Legacy
Long after we’re gone, the people we love will remember the words we spoke that impacted them, good or bad. When we choose our words we, literally, choose our legacy and what we will be remembered for. Think about that.
The internet is full of quotes from famous people – you can’t open Facebook without seeing a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., Maya Angelou, Mother Teresa. These people are remembered for the things that they said, because their words yielded power and affected change.
Albeit on a smaller scale, our words have the same power to those we are surrounded by. Even if the whole world is not listening to what we have to say, someone is. And, everything we say to one another has the power to impact someone’s path.
An “Off the Cuff” Remark
When I was nine or ten, I remember telling my dad I wanted to be a hair dresser when I grew up. My dad, who is now retired after 30 years as a milk man, knew what it meant to work hard every single day.
To this day, I remember how that discussion went. I remember him asking me, “Why a hair dresser?”…and I remember the obvious response was so that I could have nice hair! (Duh!) He told me that there was absolutely nothing wrong with aspiring to be a hair dresser but that I should think about the “why”. I remember him saying that someone as smart as me could choose to be whatever in the world I wanted. And, I remember that I whole-heartedly believed him.
Now…it turns out that the very first decision I made as an 18-year-old “adult” was to become a mom, and I have no regrets, but his words have followed me throughout the rest of my life. And, I want to leave a legacy like that for the people I love, too. When they think of me, I don’t want the snark to be what instantly comes to mind. 🙂
What words have impacted your life?