Friday, August 21, 2015


"Don't get upset by what he said.  They're only words." 

 Does this statement, or any close variation of it sound familiar to you?  How many of you embrace it as your own philosophy?  How many of you would like to give the speaker a nice, firm sock in the arm?  Well, I am going to start the year in our first blog by making a bold statement (I know, seniors, big surprise, right?)  Here it goes:  Whether you acknowledge it to be true or not, your words have power.  Lots of it.  You may not feel very powerful when you utter them, but they are, as the great English proverb tells us, "Mightier than the sword."

Now, allow me to explain and expand.  For some, the words of others don't sting as much as they will for others, but whether you are tough as nails or a marshmallow when it comes to matters of the heart, those to whom you communicate may not fall into your same category.  For this reason, being a thoughtful, empathetic, yet clear communicator is a precious skill--especially for those of you who plan to be in any form of upper management.  The best leaders in any industry got there because they knew how to communicate.  They were aware of the great power of their words, and they used that power with skill and wisdom.

If not everyone receives the same words in the same spirit, than how do we become astute at the great art of communication?  Well, the answer is in the question:  it is an art, so we practice.  We test the waters.  Observe more than just verbal communication/language.  We communicate who we are to others in many different ways and within many unique nuances.  Reading people --really taking the time and presence of mind to actively listen to not just what they say but how they say it--can really tell you a lot.

In year one and year two of the IB Language and Literature, Diploma Program, we will be doing a lot of communicating with one another in various groups and partnerships, as well as all together on our blog.  You will have many opportunities to observe and learn from each other's communication style, and practice wielding your language "sword."  The spoken and written word both have their moment on the world's stage, and whether their influence is felt on a small or large scale, it is a moment that carries power for the listener: a moment in the ears can lead to a lifetime on the heart.  In his novel The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfus writes: "Words can light fires in the minds of men; words can wring tears from the hardest hearts."  See?  I'm not the only literary person to make those bold statements.

In the link below, you will have the opportunity to read Cat Thompson's article, The Power of Language.    Read through it, maybe even commit some of it to memory as a resource to use when you communicate.  See what happens!

You are powerful.  Whether written or spoken, your words carry the power to build someone up and bring life, or tear them down and bring death.

Just like that mighty sword the English were talking about.

Just for fun....

The idea that language has great power is nothing new!  Even though our modern society is much more sensitized and defensive in nature (we seem to have lost the art to debate and replaced it with the great art of mudslinging in the public arena), in ancient times and during the Renaissance, the power of our language was acknowledged.  Here are a few famous quotes, including those collected from Proverbs in the Bible and the great bard, Shakespeare, himself: