The Difference Your Voice Makes


Mark Householder shares why your words have weight.

I receive frequent, and at times painful, reminders that I do not have the greatest memory. It is no exaggeration to say that I have people daily say this all too familiar phrase, “But you said... ”  And in many cases I do not even remember that I said it.

This point was driven home earlier this year in a leadership coaching class. The coach made this statement — “From your voice to the ear of the person you are speaking to is an amplification of 10X.” How true, especially in a gravitas relationship.

Words are weighty. And when the weight of words comes to bear on a person’s life, you want those words to do good work and achieve positive outcomes. Words that do the work of affirmation, encouragement, challenge, confrontation and empathy are long remembered. But so are other words. Negative words that serve the work of sarcasm, belittling, judgment, patronizing and flattery are remembered as well. There is a 10X effect, both positive and negative, in play here.

This is what I am learning about the importance of words, especially when they are shared from the chair of a leader or influencer:

1. Be generous with praise

I have found that people crave praise, affirmation and encouragement. Give it in large doses. Challenge yourself by choosing three people this week with the goal of generously honoring them with attention, questions and encouragement. Proverbs 3:23 says, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”

2. Be honest with your words

Honesty can take work. It can take skillful observation and a growing vocabulary to connect the right words with the right need in another person. Proverbs 15:23 says, “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply — and how good is a timely word!”

3. Be quick to deal with conflict

Conflict can provide the best venue to connect deeply with another person. Deal with conflict when it is a misdemeanor and not a felony. Here are three things to take into consideration as you discern the need to confront:

  • Separate the person from the issue. In our organization, we have come to value the phase, “Be hard on the issue and soft on people.”
  • Ask yourself, “Am I committed to preserve and grow the relationship? Am I in it for the growth opportunity or am I in it for the win?”
  • Assume that you will be the bad person for moving toward confrontation. Make sure you are resourced with good support from other people.

The words you use, your tone of voice and body language will speak loudly when dealing with conflict. Choose your words wisely.

4. Words that wound can be an open door

Once while playing quarterback for my high school football team, I threw four interceptions and fumbled twice … all in one game! It was brutal, and the performance was in front of a homecoming crowd. Worse were the cutting words of a person I respected as we headed off the field. This person said, “Well, the team played pretty well tonight; all the team needs now is a quarterback.” Over the next two years those hurtful words became an open door and showed me my need for a Savior.

What have you learned about the power of words?


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