Going through old stuff on a rainy day, I found an old card that was so timely and so interesting to me. As a young child, at 13, I was moving to a different city, different neighborhood, and completely different school – where I had to make all new friends. It was a really frustrating time for me.

I found a note from my mother that I kept for all these years, and really wanted to share the important message that she shared with me.

The Life-Changing Letter

As a 13-year-old, I probably just tucked it under a pillow or threw it in the bottom of a drawer. I knew that it mattered, but I didn’t really listen and didn’t really think it through. Looking back, these are things that I’ve definitely grown on – and are things that, in my 40s, I’m able to honestly look back appreciate her life-changing words.

She began by saying “Scott, I know it’s a challenging time for you. You have a lot of fun and exciting things ahead of you, but you also have some challenges – and how you handle those challenges is going to be key”.  There were a couple of things she wanted me to remember:

1. Your words matter.

How you say things really matters. Having a direct and sometimes dominant personality, I tend to say things straight and to the point – which can sometimes be too direct and quite hurtful.

Your words do matter. Sometimes you don’t even know your words matter until you realize that you matter. When you’re standing in front of a room leading people, whether you’re a teacher, a coach, an advisor, or whatever it is that you’re doing – when you say things, they matter. When you say things to your family, they matter.

We all find ourselves saying things we probably wish we hadn’t said around the people we love most, and we have to backtrack a little bit, because words do matter.

We Choose How to React to Hurtful Words

We probably all teach our kids “sticks and stones” because words can be hurtful. But we can also choose how we receive those words. The reality is, saying words that we don’t mean just because we’re trying to prove a point are not effective strategies. In business, it’s even more important – because when you matter, your words matter so much more. When we’re dealing with service-related things in our company, or we’re talking to other staff members, how we say things can be just as important as what we’re saying.

Words are Engraved Forever

It’s important to remember that our words matter everywhere, even when we’re typing them out, or texting them. We see this on social media all the time – people say things that they’d never say to someone’s face, which is so shocking. I would never say something on social media that I wouldn’t say, out in public or to the person as an individual.

These are lessons that that our kids have to realize. All it takes is one quick argument with a with a girlfriend, boyfriend, or friend that they’re mad at, and their words are engraved forever.

Words may matter more now than they ever have before, because they’re saved. When we think about how we treat other people as we communicate with them, as we go through business and life, thinking about what we want to say before saying it can make us more effective, and efficient. Words are something that makes a big difference.

2. Blaming others is never the solution.

If you go through life blaming others for anything and everything, you’ll be very unhappy in life. Blaming others doesn’t get you anywhere. Figure out what you can control, get control of it, and work through it. Blame – and nothing gets anything accomplished.

You don’t become better at your job by blaming someone for not helping you get there or not giving you a better opportunity. You don’t get better at being a husband or a wife, or being a better father or mother, by not learning from your own mistakes.

 We get better when we when we work on perfecting the words that come out of our mouth – and when we stop self-talking and blaming others.

3. Understand other people, and their personalities.

Understanding how other people receive information and their personalities makes us better teammates, especially in the company we work with. Understanding each other as humans can help us better communicate with each other at work.

 Part of that is just getting to know each other better – and part of it is learning more about their strengths and blind spots.

As a 13 year old boy, one of my blind spots is probably still a blind spot for me today. I’ve become good with words, in part because I’ve spent a lot of time failing at them. I’ve spent a lot of time saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and by understanding and learning how to build from that: how to get better, how to deliver a message cleaner, how to say something that’s direct, but not hurtful or too strong.

Some people might hold things in and not say what’s on their mind, which can be just as tough and as hard in a communication, whether at work, at home, or anywhere. Not saying something can be powerful as well. The most important part is:

  • Finding what we do well.
  • Finding how we do it, and growing from it.
  • Developing that strength.

We always have opportunities to continue learning from and growing from failures, and there are many that can come from words. Our words, and how you say things absolutely matters.

I thank my mom for taking the time to give me that card. I really should probably apologize, because whatever I did probably warranted that letter. What a truly great lesson I learned from it.  Words matter. Blaming others doesn’t help us get anywhere. So, thanks, Mom. Hopefully, we could all continue learning these important lessons and grow more as humans and in the workplace.