As a storyteller, I should understand how powerful words can be to people, but I don’t think I fully understood it until this week. This week the Universe smacked me over the head with a lesson about how powerful words can be. Once I recovered from the hit, the power of words was everywhere I looked.
My Alma mater asked me to speak at a student and alumni event held just for women. The event organizers at Concordia College asked me to share my winding story of how I ended up as a small business owner. They felt it would show the final semester seniors that they don’t have to have their entire lives figured out in this moment since my career path had a few trap doors along the way.
To a captive audience of 70 women, in a variety of places in life, I shared the good, the bad, and the ugly. I started with me as a five year old and how all I ever wanted to do was become a television reporter.
To see if they were paying attention I told them of the telling moment in the newsroom when I realized it was time for me to go after six years in my childhood dream job. It involved a response to my supervisor that went like this: “What are they going to do? Fire me?!” The echo of my tone from five years ago was infused with attitude, which is not who I am, nor who I wanted to become. It took weeks to give myself permission to let go of five-year-old Sarah’s dream, but she was ok with it and that helped me move on. When I told that story, all of the students in the room gasped in shock and the alumni nodded.
I told of losing my job in 2009 after a media company closed and the tailspin that ensued. I wanted them to know that things would be ok, that life’s an exciting journey and it’s ok to be scared and nervous when it comes to jobs and changes. Looking back on that confusing time, it was what I needed to be where I am now.
Many of the students said they took a deep breath during the presentation and said they felt better about their upcoming decisions. Their feedback and words to me were more powerful and validating than I anticipated and I was so thankful they shared their thoughts with me – it woke me up to the power of sharing stories and the power of words.
I have a friend who is going through a difficult breakup and she relayed the words that her boyfriend yelled at her. They were hurtful, scarring, and unacceptable for one person to say to another. He may not know how biting those words were – or maybe he did.
Lately, a few people around me are struggling with being direct and they dance around what they’re trying to ask me. They play games and I don’t appreciate the confusion it causes.
Also this week, a friend upset me but she called right away to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong and I apologize.” I am learning more about the art of the apology and I think the ability to apologize in a sincere and direct way is admirable and very telling about a person. I was impressed that she called – it was not a text message, not an email, not a Facebook post – but a good old-fashioned phone call. This speaks to her character anyway – she’s a sincere person. I have taken mental notes on how she handled the situation so the next time I’m on the other side, I hope I can handle myself like she did.
Words can comfort, heal, hurt, manipulate, sting, spread joy, provide inspiration, question, answer, clarify, confuse, and that’s just the short list.
This week has brought new meaning to the phrase, “Choose your words wisely.”