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(Re)Discovery 9: Words (don’t) matter

“Things aren’t all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered…”
Rainer Maria Rilke

I love Rainer Maria Rilke‘s notion of “a space that no word has ever entered…” and acknowledge the existence of this space. But I also believe that words do matter. In fact, they matter much more that we often think. They can compel us to take action and/or evoke strong emotions. I recall so many situations in which ‘ordinary’ words caused sleepless nights and days full of speculations, sadness, excitement, fear, happiness… The power of words is simply incredible.

The stories that we tell ourselves each and every day ultimately consist of the words we use. When speaking our voice (volume, style, intonation) conveys meaning in addition to mere wording. But in written, words are the only means to express what we want to say. Authenticity and dealing with silence are certainly important aspects when it comes to our choice of words. Add the foreign language (and cultural) dimension to that and communication can quickly become an adventure and/or a real challenge. How to go about it? I have no recipe… My simple personal discovery is that empathy is of vital importance when it comes to the usage of words in our communication. What have your discoveries been?

Author: User PiccoloNamek; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: User PiccoloNamek; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons


About irinapashina

Marketing professional, blogger, group fitness instructor, reader, theater-goer


5 thoughts on “(Re)Discovery 9: Words (don’t) matter

  1. The presence of words matters as much as the absence of words does.
    In nowadays digital world, words are not the only way to express oneself in written. Think about emoticons, hash tags, things like these. We even tend to transfer them to better express our attitudes when writing on paper :). My mother, who doesn’t have a single clue about computers and the internet, she understands that colon/bracket combination that I am sending her in a text message. Know what I mean?
    I generally agree with you though. The power of words is astonishing, both in written and in spoken communication. Words should always be chosen wisely. As you put it so well, one moment of unthoughtfulness and your counterpart might be very sad (or, likewise, very happy) for days, without there being a reason to justify these emotions.
    In the end, words DO matter, even though there are situations or rather experiences and feelings that one feels unable to express with words. That somehow leads me to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_relativity. Does you mind influence your language or does your language influence your mind? 😉

    Posted by sharpxs | July 28, 2013, 6:43 pm
    • Lars ji,

      thanks for another thought-provoking comment. I left out the ‘digital’ expressions (emoticons, hashtags, etc.) on purpose (even though I am fully with you that they are an integral part of our digital communication) as I wanted to focus on words. We often tend to neglect them or their usage and I felt the need to bring them to the focus of attention, at least in a short blog post. Thanks for the reference to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and the principle of linguistic relativity. I need to look into it beyond the Wikipedia article and to take it to one of our discussions over lunch 🙂

      Posted by irinapashina | July 29, 2013, 9:08 pm
    • You are so right Lars, words DO matter and The power of words is astonishing. I still remember our discussion when you are joking and laughing about me because I feel offended, also in the name of my son, That you insist to use the word “Nigger/Neger” without knowledge and meaning of the power and history this word has. Words should always be chosen wisely ? Yes certainly.

      Posted by Karola | August 3, 2013, 8:18 am
      • Karola, you’re comparing apples and oranges. There’s quite a few counter arguments to your proposition. However, I am unwilling to reestablish this discussion. It is a matter of perspective and, as far as I see it, we won’t reach common ground here. Eventually, we’ll end up again being mad at each other and I just don’t see the point there. Hence, I surrender.

        Posted by Lars | August 3, 2013, 8:52 pm


  1. Pingback: Discovery 26: ‘See You Soon!’ | impressions - August 26, 2013

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