Words Matter: Use Them Carefully
We all remember the childhood saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That saying is far from true; in fact, it is actually completely false. As children, we all knew that words hurt, and as adults, we are keenly aware of how our words can hurt someone or, even, ourselves. As lawyers, we have an even more intimate relationship with the power of words.
And, as women, we know the devastating effect words can have on our self-esteem, development, confidence and success. Not only are we cautious about how we are spoken to or about, but we have additional concerns about how our words are perceived: “Will they think I was mean, instead of assertive?” These considerations are a constant battle.
We also face “women bashing” or “shaming.” It has become all too common in our society to shame women for what they wear, what they say, what they do – or what they don’t wear, say or do. And, worse yet, it is not just from men. In fact, sometimes it is more hurtful when women engage in disparaging remarks about other women, or when women sit idly by as men and/or women unfairly criticize or perpetuate hurtful words about another woman.
As women we have enough to deal with—our work, school, career, personal life, social life, volunteerism and the list can keep going—we don’t also need to spend our energy cutting down other women. We can be examples of true collaboration, by sticking together and building each other up. We know attitudes and words are contagious, whether they are positive or negative. We can compliment each other more, praise each other’s accomplishments more, and raise one another up with our words.
What we didn’t learn when we repeated the childhood rhyme was this: While sticks and stones may break our bones, those wounds will heal faster than the wounds from our words. Let’s be mindful the next time we hear or start to engage in negative words or criticism. Let’s raise each other up with our words!
Deborah Dixon is a Senior Trial Attorney at Gomez Trial Attorneys, focusing on class action claims.