Look After Your Mind No. 10
A Few Simple Words
It’s a truism to say that words are powerful. Many if not all of us can be influenced by the persuasive language found in the media, or swayed by the smooth rhetoric of politicians (although it must be said that by now I’ve developed a rather cynical streak when it comes to being influenced by what other people say.)
Aside from that, the words we use have the power to influence in both positive and negative ways: in this article of course I want to concentrate on the positive.
When my wife ran Lime Trees Day Nursery in Market Harborough, she made a point of greeting every child as he or she came in and would always find something positive to say to them; ‘That’s a lovely bright smile you’ve got’, ‘I do like your colourful hat’, ‘I see you’ve drawn a picture. Shall we put it up on the wall?’ These comments, made sincerely, helped to brighten the child’s day and make them feel welcome.
My wife has continued with this habit, though more usually with adults these days. Recently we were going through the checkout at Sainsbury’s and noticed the rather bored expression on the checkout girl’s face. As sheacknowledged us my wife said, ‘I like your earrings. Where did you get them?’
Immediately the young woman smiled and carried on a conversation about how she’d made them herself, obviously pleased that someone had noticed her handiwork.
The most dramatic example of the positive power of words that I know was related to me by my friend Frank. At secondary school he was often in trouble and made little effort in his subjects. His favourite teacher was an elderly Geography master who, said Frank, ‘at least treated me like a human being.’
It so happened that this teacher was about to retire. On the last day of his teaching career he sought Frank out and said to him quietly, ‘You know lad, I’m expecting great things of you.’ ‘Those few simple words completely changed my attitude and transformed my life,’ Frank said, leading him to go on to university and then became a teacher himself, ending up as deputy head of a large school in Essex.
Frank’s old Geography teacher understood not only how words can lead to positive change, but also how high expectations can have a profound and lasting effect.
Click here to read more articles in the series 'Look After Your Mind' by Steve Bowkett