Don’t let your words come back to haunt you

Witches and wizards cast spells. They speak their words aloud, and their words work their magic. Depending on the whim of the witch, a spell could unite lovers or drive them apart, wound a rival or heal an injury.

As speakers and presenters, we cast spells with our words too. Words are more than the simple message they carry. Words are sounds with vibrations and frequencies. When spoken out loud they convent into a powerful and potentially life-changing energy. Remember the first time someone said they loved you? Or a nurse said ‘You have a beautiful, healthy child’.

Try not feeling anything when some one says ‘You just won a million dollars’ or ‘You’re not good enough for our team’.

Words pass through our brains and sear themselves into our memories. The most powerful words have a life of their own. A long life.

In the US election campaign, a lot of powerful spells were cast using words that will long outlive the campaign itself. Some have already outlasted the news cycle that carried them around the world. Some will outlast the tee shirts and ball caps on which they were emblazoned. Many of these were not gentle spells. These were the darkest of spells, designed to disable and destroy.

Many of the blackest spells were cast by Donald Trump, delivered with a venom that Voldemort would have envied.

Yet in his acceptance speech after his surprise election victory, Trump chose conciliatory words and a softer tone of voice. He was gracious. But can he – with a wave of a presidential wand – erase all the damaging, hurtful words of the campaign? Or will his words come back to haunt his presidency?

Do a Google search for ‘Trump quotes’ and you’ll get 29,400,000 choices in 0.59 seconds. Four of the first 10 on my screen were:

  • 30 most outrageous Trump quotes
  • 28 sexist Trump quotes
  • 23 ridiculously offensive Trump quotes
  • 13 examples of Trump being racist

Google ‘Obama quotes’ and the first ones you get will include:

  • We are the change we seek
  • We were strangers once, too
  • Change is brought about by ordinary people doing extraordinary things

and, of course,

We’d all like to be remembered for our best thoughts and finest words. As speakers and presenters we hope that those words connect, engage and persuade audiences. And linger – in the best way possible – long after we’ve walked off the stage or left the boardroom.

As speakers and presenters we know that our words are powerful tools. They can build up, and they can break down. They can bring together and they can drive apart. They can wound, and they can heal.

Let’s make a pledge today:

  • To chose our words carefully (but not so carefully that we sound contrived).
  • To express ourselves honestly, without being hurtful.
  • To question our motives for saying what we are planning to say.
  • To pause and think, before dashing off a flip comment that could be misconstrued or cause a lasting rift.
  • To understand our audience better, and respect their points of view – even when they disagree with us.
  • To remember that our words don’t just say what we think… they reveal who we are.

Our words – like spells – are powerful. And, like spells, once cast they cannot be called back; not by witches, or wizards, or even presidents.