We talked in the VA 101 Mastermind this morning about words – specifically, how do you react to someone telling you the obvious? An example would be a client off-handedly saying, “well, you’re not very good at creating eye-popping graphics” when talking about some potential work. “Good call, Captain Obvious,” we think to ourselves. “How’d you figure that out? Maybe it was the single social media meme in my files and that my Canva account is all of 45 minutes old.” We can find this upsetting or hurtful. We should react by examining the words for any possible truths, and give very little attention to “the way it was said” or potential hurt feelings.

This got me thinking about words in general. I thought about some lyrics from those great British philosophers, The Police, in their song “De Do Do Do De Da Da Da” :

“Poets priests and politicians

Have words to thank for their positions

Words that scream for your submission

And no-one’s jamming their transmission”

I suppose writers like me would fall in the “poets” category, right? 🙂 I notice they said people in these positions “scream for your submission” when none of these positions was designed to be positions of rule. So if their words are not supposed to bring submission, what are words supposed to do? Glad you asked. Let’s call them “the Three I’s”

Inform – You can never go wrong receiving more information. I have a friend I met though my Toastmasters club at the old corporate gig who was from India. Every time I spent any time with her, I learned something new about the country, culture, or people. I asked her once about the Hindu worship of cows. What I learned was that in that part of the world, the cow is more like a pet than a regular animal, similar to the way dogs and cats are viewed in the US. We will occasionally make jokes about dogs or cats becoming a meal (usually the one we personally don’t prefer), but generally, US people don’t advocate trying to make dinner out of someone’s dog or cat. That’s how the person from India generally feels about the cow. I was appreciative of the perspective, and it’s a whole lot easier to understand now that I have that information.

Indulge – This is a bit of a stretch to make these all start with the letter I – using thesaurus.com, I found “indulge” as a synonym for “entertain.” This is where I believe I have a particular strength. I can create humor from my words pretty well. When I told my wife about the material of my last Facebook Live in the VA 101 Mastermind group, such as my saying that words like column, solemn and autumn had no business ending in the letter n, that “n” stood for “no reason to be there,” she said, “OK, so you’re not a big fan of Latin.” I said, “Yeah, I didn’t grow up in Latin-Land, or Latia, or whatever you want to call it.” Here comes another eye roll. But she’s had to put up with my ridiculousness for 19 years now, so she’s built up a tolerance for it. But the VA 101 group thought it was funny, so I’m going with funny. At any rate, there are always an infinite number of serious things going on in the world that laughing and being entertained are essential to being balanced.

Inspire – Who doesn’t love an inspirational word or speech? With all the aforementioned serious ( and often negative) things coming at us, it can be tempting to just sit back, thinking there’s nothing I can do or that it’s too overwhelming to try to make a difference. That’s where inspiration comes in. History has provided many different people that rose up and inspired people with the actions they took and also the words they spoke. Many times those words made a dramatic difference. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is an obvious example. My all-time favorite set of words he spoke was that people “would one day be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I don’t think we’re there yet, but I hold out hope we will get there during my lifetime.

Words can be very powerful. They can be weapons for good or bad. What are your thoughts?

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