A man is only as good as his word, but these days, that doesn’t seem to carry much weight. Everything appears as a meme, criticism or an empty promise. So if you can’t trust a man at his word, what can you trust?
“Your word is the power you have to create. It is through your word that you manifest everything,”
-Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
What is a man’s word? Is it some ancient tradition that all men are incapable of dishonoring? Or does it casually preface swearing on our mothers’ lives and spit-shaking an agreement?
In the beginning, all we had were words. But now we’ve created such intricate systems that allow us to use them in new and exciting ways, as if books and conversations got too boring for everyone. Now we find ourselves turbo-titillated with infinite avenues to exchange ideas — texting, emailing, zooming and — heaven forbid — calling one another.
We don’t use words the same way we did 20 years ago. Every conversation has a funny tweet or GIF attached to it, something to let us off the hook from having any kind of sincere interaction. And yet, words are still everywhere, and they still have so much power. But as we all know, power can corrupt, and many people are more than happy to use their words however they must in order to grasp that power. But with that, words lose their weight, their purpose, their meaning.
Knowing that, how can we trust any man’s word again?
We begin by learning to being impeccable with our words, learning to speak rather than make sounds, which allows us to spot the difference between the force that is words versus fraud. We practice restraint and using words only for good and not for attention. Only then can we earn each other’s respect and begin to trust one another again. And the power we get from that respect is a different kind of power.
It’s good power, and it can spread rampant positive change like wildfire.
Speak, Don’t Just Make Sounds
Most conversations you encounter, especially in a social setting, feel like a competition. Everyone is so cracked out on their own ideas that they can’t wait to share that most people don’t stop to soak up the wisdom others have to impart. It’s one person one-upping another person who gets one-upped by the next. It’s like living inside of a movie you’d never pay to go see.
It’s not a competition, in case that wasn’t clear. Conversations can be entertaining, but they needn’t be gossip, which is a controlling force of so many conversations. The act of ripping one another apart or seeing who can get the most likes on a comment. What does making yourself feel better by using your words to hurt another do to your words? It hollows them.
What things do you text your friends that you’d bite your tongue on if you were there in person? What would you say to someone next to you in traffic if you weren’t flipping them the bird? How would you respond to someone asking how you were if they looked you straight in the eyes?
Words do mean something. In some ways, they’re everything.
It is said you can attain the kingdom of Heaven with the impeccability of your words.
So how will you change how you speak?
Show a Little Restraint
In high school, my closest friend was named Drew, and my mother constantly asked me why I couldn’t be more like him. I used to crack jokes, argue my point when it was never asked for and mostly just spoke to hear myself make sounds. But Drew withheld his words until the right time. His restraint is unimaginable, and what comes out of his mouth is always classic, genuine or thoughtful. To this day, I’ve never met anybody with such a discipline for his words.
So instead of talking just to get your fair share of conversation, maybe sit back and listen to what people are saying. Notice the patterns, the wisdom, the absurdities and at the appropriate time, you can insert a bit of objectivity — a little golden nugget of truth.
The Art of Powerful Conversations
Powerful conversations have eye contact. They do not have brightly-lit screens between them.
Powerful conversations have as much listening as they do talking, if not more. They are not spaces for you to fill up with your words, so many that nothing of value can be taken away by the end.
Powerful conversations are the start of bigger and more powerful conversations. They are not just something to pass the day. If you go to bed having learned nothing that day, you’re not having powerful conversations.
Powerful conversations have intelligent thoughts, observations, and a spark of curiosity. They help us learn more, understand one another, make each other feel better and show signs of gratitude.
Gain Respect By Being Powerful With Your Words
It is by not speaking when people expect us to speak that we gain their respect. It’s by not going for the easy joke, not plucking the low-hanging fruit that we show respect to others with our words. A lack of words shows respect. Carefully chosen words show respect. The more respect you put out in the world, the more you’ll get back. As the call, so the echo.
And that is the power of a man’s word. It’s honest, it’s trustworthy and its power is not meant to corrupt.
What will you do with your words today? How will you change the way you speak this week? Who will you engage with meaningful ideas, and how will you show restraint?
This is a Man Enough challenge if we ever saw one.
Cover: Prostock-studio (Envato Elements)
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