Words have incredible power. They can lift you up—or tear you down. Think back to a time you heard something unflattering or even downright mean that someone said about you; you probably felt angry, hurt, or rejected. Now, think about a time when you received authentic praise. It probably raised your spirits and boosted your confidence. It might even have revealed something about yourself that you never fully appreciated!
Sometimes our words stay solely with the receiver. Other times, they go in a million directions outside of our control, especially when we use social media, e-mail, or text messages. These days it doesn’t take much for a spark to ignite a fire.
What we say about others speaks volumes about our character—especially when we communicate about someone who is not present. They reflect our integrity, loyalty, kindness, and respect, not to mention our self control and self esteem! That’s why teaching our children to understand and harness the power of words is so vitally important.
One powerful character lesson for our kids is to only say things about others we wouldn’t mind them overhearing. That’s right—try to make every communication constructive! I call it the “Integrity Challenge.” Try it for a week in your families and see what happens. You’ll be amazed by how it affects your choice of words, and ultimately, your character and spirit. It makes us more tactful and respectful, and less judgmental. Try it for another week and it might become a wonderful habit.
While we’re at it, what if we started a movement in our schools—what if our student bodies adopted the Integrity Challenge? That would mean making a school-wide commitment that what is said or written about others is neutral or positive, with students holding each other accountable. Any criticism is constructive and only shared face to face. And, when we slip up, we apologize. This simple idea might be the best anti-bullying strategy of all!
What if we challenged ourselves and those around us—our families, friends, co-workers, teachers, students, etc.—to live by this principle? What if it became a way of life in how we think, relate, and communicate about others? Can you even imagine the possibilities? It would literally change the world—in a wonderful way! Care to give it a try?
Dennis Trittin is President and CEO of LifeSmart Publishing, author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead and co-author of Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. With world-class leadership experience, passionate advocacy for the next generation, and acclaimed resources and speaking engagements on the topics of leadership, life skills, and parenting, Dennis inspires and equips young people and those who guide them. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter!