The Power of Words

Not too long ago I gave a speech called ‘The Power of the Pause.’ I talked about the importance of pausing in all areas of our lives.

The power of the pause has never been more important than it is right now because our world is changing at warp speed.

Change is everywhere and it’s scary how fast what ‘was’ no longer ‘is.’

[Watch Maria Shriver’s full ‘Power of the Pause’ speech]

Companies come and go. Carefully orchestrated careers end in minutes. Friends up and move. Kids grow and leave. People change, governments surprise.

This week alone I woke up to images of a man being burned alive in a cage, and before I could close my mouth two more people were hung in swift retaliation.

I just didn’t know what to say.

And then I saw this piece by Kasey StuddardAnd then this piece by Nicholas Kristof. And then my daughter Katherine told me the brave words she said to a woman who was sitting next to her idly gossiping about our family in an unflattering way.

[Read: 13 Things I Would Tell My 29-Year-Old Self Now]

I sent both of the articles to my kids and their friends. I wanted them to see the effect negative words can have on someone’s heart. I wanted them to see a different take on a story that was unfolding in real time about a famous individual. I wanted them to see that they could use their words to join in the gossip or they could use their words to promote compassion, empathy and understanding.

The old nursery rhyme says “sticks and stones can break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

That’s just not true. We’ve all used words that we regret. I know I have.

Words are powerful.

They can promote unity and peace. Look at Nelson Mandela, the Pope and countless “ordinary” teachers who are promoting kindness and emotional intelligence every day. Words can be used to empower.

Words can also cut just like a knife.

The power of the pause. The power of our words. The words we use in real life and on the Internet can both benefit from pausing to recognize the power they weild. 

I’ve been thinking about how I, and those I love, can use our words more for good than harm. In these changing times it’s one piece of power we all can share.

[Read more of Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]

Will you join me in harnessing the power of your words for good?


[Image via Death to the Stock Photo]

About the Author

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Maria Shriver is a mother of four, a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning journalist and producer, a six-time New York Times best-selling author, and an NBC News Special Anchor covering the shifting roles, emerging power and evolving needs of women in modern life. Since 2009, Shriver has produced a groundbreaking series of Shriver Reports that chronicle and explore seismic shifts in the American culture and society affecting women today. Shriver was California’s First Lady from 2003 to 2010 and, during that time, she spearheaded what became the nation's premier forum for women, The Women's Conference. Shriver's work is driven by her belief that all of us have the ability to be what she calls Architects of Change -- people who see a problem in their own life or the community around them, then step out of their comfort zone and do what it takes to create the solution. Like her page on Facebook or follow her on Instagram.

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