Wednesday, August 05, 2009


We are all familiar with the idea that if you are told something enough, you will start to believe it. The concept can work both positively and negatively.

When one of my Goddaughters was little, people complimented her regularly, telling her how beautiful she was. Because she was painfully shy back then, she'd smile sheepishly and hide behind me when others talked to her. Then one day, as we stood in line to check out at Target, the cashier looked up and said, "You are so beautiful." My Goddaughter leaned toward the register and responded, "I know."

After years and years of hearing how pretty she was, my Goddaughter began to believe it. And the words of others sounded more like fact to her than compliments. She responded with confidence, not conceit. She had been told over and over that she was beautiful so it must have been true.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the mental toll that negative words can have on the human spirit is astounding. Research shows, in simple studies, that if a person is told repeatedly to think about something, their "thought energy" shifts and their brain waves change to reflect those thoughts. So if someone is told that they are no good, worthless or a failure on a regular basis, their mindset changes to such a degree that they can become no good, worthless or a failure.

I don't believe that we are aware in many cases of the affect of what we say to the people around us. And, I am often amazed at how cruel we can be when it comes to inflicting hateful words on others, especially strangers.

I think the greatest demonstration of this behavior occurs in the sports arena. If a team or a player is slumping or having a rough time, otherwise happy, cheerful fans can become mean. Perhaps they think that reverse psychology will light a fire under those athletes. Or they forget that athletes are people too. But I have to wonder, if someone came to your job every day and, while you tried to work, yelled and screamed about how bad you were at your job, if you'd get much done. If the people around you constantly yelled that you suck or you should just go home, wouldn't you want to just... go home?

In my younger years, my tongue was much sharper. But my compassion for others has grown recently and I have become very aware of the importance of compliments and the value in kind words. Negativity breeds negativity. Positivity breeds positivity. We should choose our words wisely.

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