There’s a story of a tradition that the inhabitants of the Solomon Islands possess that appear to be a form of dark magic. When it’s time for a tree on the island to come down, the islanders don’t need or use any sharp, physical objects. Instead, they curse the tree with negative words and harsh tones over a period of time. It’s said that the negative energy imparted on the tree kills it, and within a month, it falls to the ground!
The furniture company Ikea even supported this myth through a social experiment involving students. They placed two plants in similar conditions with water, air, and light, and placed speakers near each of them. For one of the plants, students could record messages with put-downs and negative comments being played within an endless loop. For the other plant, students recorded messages with positivity and compliments playing 24 hours a day. After 30 days, the plant that had to endure negative comments began to wilt and droop. The plant that was fortunate to receive positive compliments was thriving, vibrant, and full. You can actually watch the Ikea Experiment video here: Bully a Plant: Say No to Bullying (What a great experiment to replicate with the students at your school to reinforce positivity!)
One of my favorite musicians, Toby Mac, understood the power of our words. In his song, Speak Life, he shares the sentiment that our words have the ability to uplift or drain others – there’s nothing in between. While we can fool ourselves to think there is a between, the power is in having a mindset that our words only either bring life or not. Can you imagine the implications in how you talk with others with this mindset?
Henry Ehring also approached encounters with the same mindset with his quote, “When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble…and you will be right more than half the time.” Ben Hardy reinforced Ehring’s quote in his blog post: This 23-word sentence reveals the secret to winning with people.
For leaders to have a “Speak Life” mindset, they need to approach others with these three reflection questions:
- If my words will be memorized by the other person forever, how will it change what I say?
- If my loved ones were in the room, how would it change what I say to others?
- How can my words change another person’s life for the better?
As we continue to truly understand the power of our words, it’s important that we reflect on our mindset and the ability to cure or destroy. In every instance, we have a choice in how we act and respond in situations. And, in that brief moment, we carry a responsibility in which direction our words convey. And, since Your Words Matter, I challenge you to Speak Life.
I did this experiment many years ago. The students were amazed.
Wow! That’s awesome! Did it have the same results? What were the student insights and feedback?