“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
There is this overwhelming notion among a large part of society that “words don’t matter” and until action sees the light of day, then what we say does not matter. To those people and naysayers, I would love to explain to you why it is that words do matter and the profound effect they have on each and every one of us. Because unless someone stands up to those with hearts full of doubt, nothing will ever get better, and this world deserves to become a place where words can both lift us from the precipice and send us on an adventure through the lens of our neighbor.
Words and Our Brains
Let’s begin with how words function and process within our brains. University of College London’s Dr.Scott explains,
“The brain takes speech and separates it into words and ‘melody’ – the varying intonation in speech that reveals mood, gender and so on. Words are then shunted over to the left temporal lobe for processing while the melody is channeled to the right side of the brain, a region more stimulated by music.”
This new research is ground-breaking because it explains why the rhythm and intonation of a person’s voice affect us on such a deep emotional level. The reason when we listen to someone like Dr.Martin Luther King give a speech in comparison to an average person read aloud his “I Have A Dream“ speech, the two are going to give you two very different reactions. The strong and melodic manner of speaking that Dr.King gave on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial instills a sense of awe and admiration in people listening. The content of his words was only half of the magic that allowed his speech to touch millions, the other being his intonation and the rhythm in which he spoke those famous words, “I have a dream.”
How Words Predict Our Behavior
Words are more than simply tools for us to change our emotional state or express how we feel. Recent studies and insight from leading behavioral specialists have begun to utilize the words of people as accurate predictors of their behavior and mental state. Psychology-chair at the University of Texas Dr. James W. Pennbaker says, “The way that people refer to themselves and others is highly diagnostic of their mental state.”
He goes on to say that when people are being deceptive in laboratory experiments, their use of first person singular drops significantly. Dr. James explains, “Indeed, the use of “I” is one of the best predictors of honesty.” How much more can we learn by analyzing how a person speaks about themselves and the choice of words they use?
Former FBI Behavioral Analyst, Dr. Jack Schafer sheds light on the subject by explaining that,
“Certain words reflect the behavioral characteristics of the person who spoke or wrote them. I labeled these words, Word Clues. Word Clues increase the probability of predicting the behavioral characteristics of people by analyzing the words they choose when they speak or write.”
So how you use your words and what you say really does speak volumes about the content of your character. So it is wise to mind your thoughts and even more so your words. They are giving off a detailed impression of who you are with every person you come in contact with. Everyone can use their unconscious to make an in-depth illustration of you when you speak to them, similarly you do too. So the next time you find yourself wanting to learn more about a person, lean in closer, and listen to the choice of words.
The Philosophy of Words
Now we both know that words affect us deeply on an emotional level and are capable of describing us to extraordinary detail, but why do words matter? Purpose is relative so I will explain to you why words matter to a psychologist.
Words are the vehicle for change and inspiration, they allow the brightest minds on Earth to free themselves of the chains in their minds. Words turn dreams and visions into reality, they give life to all that remains hidden and kept away.
They allow ideas, innovations and movements to see the light of day when in any other circumstance they would have stayed asleep among the midst of chaotic humdrum in our minds. We’ve all experienced this phenomenon, you know what you must do, how you must do it, but you cannot muster up the courage to do it.
The gate to insights sits closed, shining brilliantly in your face, waiting for the key to unlock it. But the key never comes, until, everything goes quiet and for the first time you feel as if everything makes sense and you know what you’ve yearned for.
The golden key arrives in the form of a simple, yet profound combination of words. At last, words have given hope a chance. Words have given you, a chance.
To Learn More About the Psychology of Words (References)
- Griffith, V. (March 15 2005) Writing To Heal.
- Pennbaker, J. (August 30, 2011) The Secret LIfe of Pronouns.