Words Have Power!
That is not a sentiment, it is a fact that has been scientifically proven. In this article, I will share my thoughts on the positive and negative impact of words and how you, as an author, can use that power to your advantage.
In my lifetime, I have had several opportunities to teach. At the Air Force Academy, I taught cadets about time management, discipline, motivation, and teamwork. During several of my military assignments, I taught soldiers about computer systems, network security, and software fundamentals. In Vietnam, I taught children how to speak, write, and understand English. In corporate classes, I taught teamwork, management styles, and public speaking. In every teaching scenario, I enjoyed mixing things up with what I called “fun facts.”
One of my “fun fact” presentations is relevant to this post – words have power. Before going any further on the topic, I will share the scenario.
Words Have Power Presentation
To begin, I would ask the biggest man (or boy) in class to come up front and then ask the smallest woman (or girl) to join him. Once they were positioned at the front of the class, I would ask them to stand side-by-side.
Starting things off, I would ask the man to lift his dominant arm and to use all of his might to keep it in place. Once his arm was raised, I would ask the woman to use two fingers to try to push his arm back down. Without fail, she would not be able to make his arm budge as he thought of it as a challenge and failure would be a blow to his ego in front of his peers.
At this point, I would tell them both to relax while I outlined our little experiment. Here is the basic speech I would give:
“As humans, we all have electromagnetic fields surrounding us as a result of our physiology. Synapses in our brains are constantly firing and chemical reactions with electrical output are constantly taking place. The combination gives us a small EMF. As is the case with all electronic devices, that EMF can be affected by external factors. Most of you know what an Electromagnetic Impulse (EMP) would do to your electronic devices, but few of you know that words have the same power. Today, I will prove that claim as fact, not theory.”
Some of you are probably thinking that this seems like the over-the-top assertions of a sci-fi writer. I assure you, it is not. If you don’t believe me, try this experiment yourself and check out the research by The National Center for Biotechnology Information as well as the article in Forbes magazine.
Now that I had their attention, I hand the man a magnet to hold close to his center of gravity (about an inch from his belly button) with his non-dominant hand. Once again, I ask him to raise his arm and hold it firmly in place. This time, without fail, the woman is able to easily drop it with just two fingers.
“Why did that happen?” I ask the class. “His muscles haven’t changed over the last few seconds. The answer is that the magnet disrupted his electromagnetic field which, as a result, weakened him.”
Intrigue growing, I take the experiment to the next level. After removing the magnet, I ask them to try it again. This time, the man holds strong.
By the way, this is where things get a little weird. Once he shows that his strength is back, I hand him a packet of sugar from my coffee and tell him to put a dab on his tongue. Knowing that sugar is bad for him, he once again loses his strength when we repeat the process. This shows that our interpretation of things can have an effect on our physiology. After giving him something healthy like an apple or a banana to hold, his strength returns.
In the final stage of my “fun fact” experiment, I verbally assault the man in front of his peers. For example, I might say: “You are the worst student in my class. In fact, I would rather be teaching a toad than a buffoon like you.” Immediately after the insults, I would have them repeat the experiment. Without fail, his arm would drop with ease.
Wrapping the presentation up, I would apologize for my insults and shower him with compliments. When I ask them to repeat the exercise, the woman stands no chance of making his arm drop.
The point of the exercise is that words actually do have power, not metaphorically, but scientifically. Remember this fact when you are writing! More importantly, remember this fact when you are relating to the people around you!!!
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As writers, we spend a so much time selecting the correct word. Not all words are created equal.