Monday Column: Kind words can change our world

A long time ago, one of my teachers said in the class that kind words can change the world.  As a ten year old, I was not sure how it worked. As a child, all I understood was that we got a slap from our teachers or parents if we did not say the right words.

But now I know that people respond to compliments or contempt. Contrary to what most of us believe, there are no casual words. If you didn’t mean what you said then be sure your remarks made a significant difference to someone. We see such examples all the time but it only bothers us when we are on the receiving end. I was attending a meeting with a CEO of a large corporate business and this man has obviously perfected the art of saying the right words for the right occasion.  He paid compliments every time one was needed and tactfully disagreed when he had a different opinion.

When we were alone, I told him about my observations. His explanation was not surprising at all. “I was the subject of ridicule when I was younger and I know how it feels to be run down by words,” he told me.

 How many would remember to use their bad experience to enlighten up the life of others? One would argue that saying the right words all the time is stressful. But how you say things, in my opinion, reflects your character. You could pretend to be polite and considerate but the mask would soon slip off to reveal the real you. In my younger days as a communication engineer, I had a supervisor whose communication skill was not enviable. He was rude, loud, self-opinionated and would often drive to tears many young recruits.  His bad attitude never caught up with him until he retired. He knew that someone would have to make a farewell speech on his last day at work. He never expected anyone to have any kind words and he braced himself for the worse. However, he was taken completely by surprise when words of warmth were attributed at him. For a man who had a lot to say during his carrier, he was lost for words on his last day at work.

He was so taken aback that he was forced to shed a tear. The irony was that, this man, who drove to tears a few hundreds of people in his career, was finally at the receiving end. Did we at last have our own back? No, we did not see that way. However, for many years I thought we could have been accused of insincerity and that we did not mean a word in that speech. But now, as I write these words, I am convinced that we were completely honest. We understood his problem he had with words and it was because he was not comfortably being around with people. Perhaps somewhere in our subconscious we looked deep at his good side and finding the right words was a simple exercise.

I still see him around and perhaps he has mellowed with old age. Perhaps, the simple words we casually prepared for him on his last day in the office changed his life. I shall never know the truth but then so many other things are hidden from sight and we are not meant to know. But what we are meant to know is when to put our words in good use so we can get the best out of people. It is that simple. Ignore the bad side and look hard for the good one and trust your words to lighten up someone’s day.

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