The Impact of Words

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By: Lili Hudson

November 28, 2018

On average a person speaks about 20,000 words every day. It makes sense that the average of words spoken daily is high because words are used to convey our ideas, thoughts, reasonings, and feelings. The way a person speaks determines others’ first impressions of him and characterizes who he is to the audience in a matter of seconds. The words we use in conversations also help to persuade other people to interpret the way we intended our message to come across.

If a person presenting a speech to the public uses repetitive fillers in her dialogue such as “like,” “um,” and “you know,” the audience might infer that the speaker is anxious, nervous, or even unprepared. The assumptions that the audience makes of the speaker based off of her hesitant dialogue could lead them to assume that she is unqualified and, therefore, that the information is irrelevant.

There is another problem with today’s conversation content: we use words with indirect meanings. Words that are not able to distinctly convey our intended message. Some examples include the word “weird,” “sucks,” “cool,” etc. These words are included in our vocabulary out of habit, but they have many different meanings depending on how a person chooses to interpret them.

I once had a substitute teacher tell me that he was weird. I recall denying that he was weird out of politeness. He responded to me by saying, “What if weird isn’t a bad thing, and I like being weird?”

I didn’t say anything after that.

That scenario with the substitute teacher made me think about the meaning of the word “weird” and why it could be used as a positive adjective and a negative one simultaneously. The word “weird” doesn’t have a specific meaning, and that’s what caused my confusion.

The word “sucks” has a meaning, but it’s an insignificant one. “Sucks” is a synonym for “bad,” “unfortunate,” “undesirable,” and so on. It would make more of an impact when trying to comfort someone to say, “It’s really unfortunate that you got the grade that you did.” Rather than saying, “It sucks that you got that grade!”

The reason the first sentence has more impact is because it’s more specific to how a person might be feeling. Therefore, more relatable. Another reason is because terms such as “sucks” are easy words we grab out of our vocabulary out of habit. We don’t think about saying them; we just say them. Wouldn’t you rather have someone sympathize with you and feel like they genuinely know how you’re feeling instead of them throwing words of comfort into the air that have little meaning?

As a society, we need to take the time to understand the impact of our words and speak accordingly.


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