Kind Words

“One kind word can warm three winter months.” Chinese Proverb

I’ve been feeling yucky. Nothing specific. As colds, flu and many other ailments have been going around this time of year, my mind became overactive with possible causes for my affliction. I woke up this morning completely sapped of energy, despite a full night’s sleep. “Perhaps I should skip yoga and simply stay in bed,” I moaned aloud.

! quickly checked my iPhone. (Heaven forbid I miss any late breaking news, despite my misery). What I read changed the course of my day completely.

I received a message from a colleague whom I had worked with before I retired. She was a teacher when I worked with her, and she was now a school administrator. In her letter, she clearly articulated the type of leader that she had worked so hard to become. She remorsed about words and actions that she wished she would have done differently along the way. She spoke about the difficulty of staying positive in climates of toxicity. For her, the first school that she worked at as an administrator, bore such a climate. There she met a young teacher who struggled personally and professionally. She worked hard to build trust with him, inspire him and help him to feel safe.

To make a long story short, that struggling teacher got it together and had just been offered his dream job at his top choice school. The first thing he did (after accepting the position…and perhaps phoning his Mom), was to write to my former colleague to thank her for all that she had done for him. She then immediately wrote to me and passed on her own appreciation for me inspiring her, especially in terms of investing in relationships. Her kind words touched my soul and instantly soothed and invigorated every fiber of my being.

It is a commonly known psychological principle that kind words have the power to heal, while a single derogatory statement can remain negatively trapped in our brains forever. It is no surprise that research has continued to produce increasing evidence regarding the incredible power that our words have on each other. In Words Can Change Your Brain, the authors argue that positive words strengthen areas in our frontal lobes and promote healthy cognitive functioning. Such words propel the motivational centers of our brains into action and build resiliency. (Newberg, Waldman, 1994). Taking this concept even further, Massaru Emoto’s The Hidden Messages in Water discusses research that gives strong implications on how our words, and even our thoughts, can profoundly impact the earth and our personal health. (Emoto, 2004).

After reading (and I confess, rereading) my colleagues’ letter, I quickly got up and got dressed for yoga. I was invigorated and was now ready to take on the day.

Words. They have the power to hurt or to heal. How will you use them?


Full Proverb: 良言一句三冬暖,恶语伤人六月寒
“One kind word can warm three winter months, while vile talk wounds like bitter cold in June.” ABC Dictionary of Chinese Proverbs (Yanyu)
Editor: Rohsenow, John S.

30 Replies to “Kind Words”

  1. As always a great read for thought and contemplation! I really do enjoy reading your works of art through words! Keep on ……..

    1. Hi, Georgia – Thank YOU for your kind words, and for your many positive comments on this blog (23 to be exact)! I greatly appreciate you following along and adding to the discussions!

  2. What a beautiful story, Donna. You have a wonderful ability to capture a moment in time and draw the lessons from that moment without squeezing the life and emotion from the experience. I don’t know you, but given what you were able to write here, I’m not the least bit surprised that your colleague would have kind words to say about you.

    1. Hi, Karen – Funny thing how kind words tend to breed more kind words (and sadly, negative words often breed more negative words). I greatly appreciate your comment.

  3. Hi Donna,
    What a great way to change your feelings about the day! One of the things I loved about education was the change to really help other people. You created a chain reaction and hopefully it will continue!

    1. Hi, Fran – It is amazing how we often do have the power to change the course of a day, even if just in small ways. We also have the power to help others do the same. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. Beautiful! I was the VP of Human Resources at a mid-sized company when I retired. I said no to a lot of people. I had to deliver a lot of sad messages on benefits, downsizings, etc. I figured everyone would cheer my leaving. After I announced my retirement, I was overwhelmed with good messages that soothed my soul. I had the opportunity to address the entire company before I retired and talked about this and the effect. I encouraged people to be kind to each other and say the things you save for when a person is leaving or dead. It’s so powerful.
    Kate recently posted…Sassy cats — To pill or not to pillMy Profile

  5. Hi, Kate – I can only imagine how stressful the role of VP of Human Resources can be. Somehow I bet your amazing sense of humour, underscored by your deep kindness for others, strongly contributed to everyone’s very kind words at your departure. Your message is a very important one — being kind to each other (before they die or depart) is incredibly powerful!

  6. What a wonderful topic, Donna! And, you phrased it nicely. It is so true, how negative words ruin your day or more and positive words give you the boost needed to smile. We are realizing this more than ever running our own small business. Mark deals with customer support and it is really draining him, since only the people who complain get in touch, often blaming our product for problems that solely have to do with their computer or with things they messed up themselves. It is making us contemplate quitting! On the other hand, reading good reviews about our product on message boards makes us happy. Also, we take everything very personally, because our product is our “baby”.
    Liesbet recently posted…Wordless Wednesday – GracefulMy Profile

    1. Hi, Liesbet – I am sorry to hear about your and Mark’s frustrations with customer support. You are wise in knowing that it is often the customer’s own negativity that they spew onto you. Please don’t let them get you down or ruin your baby.

  7. Words matter. I have always thought so (and even more so in today’s climate where we are being told to “ignore his words” so often… but I won’t go there). I love your story because it shows how it impacted your day… not the research this time but the reality! I do try more these days to express appreciation for people, with specificity. I think it helps the person speaking, as well as the listener. Words matter. Kindness matters. Thanks for the reminder…. who will I express appreciation to today?
    patricia recently posted…My Month of YogaMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Patricia – I am glad that this post served as a quick reminder/motivator for you to express sincere appreciation to someone else. If we all took just a few seconds to do just that, we could make a big impact.

    1. Thanks, Marty – The research on this topic is fascinating. It suggests that while kind words definitely serve as positive reinforcement, they can also have a much deeper impact on our brains. Very interesting stuff!

  8. What a lovely post and a great reminder to pay attention to our words.

    I think it is so important to write a note of thanks when someone has touched your life – from a colleague who has mentored you, to a service representative who has gone above and beyond. Too often we are quick to complain, but slow to show our appreciation.

    Yay for you for going to yoga!
    Janis recently posted…We are the StormMy Profile

  9. Donna, this is such a heartwarming post to read! I went through that same sickness (7 weeks of it–one ear still plugged up!), and sleeping didn’t ease that overall fatigue you describe. How wonderful to read those kind words and how they inspired you to go to your yoga practice! Indeed, kind words do heal! Hope you get over the illness soon and can back to it 🙂

    1. Hi, Terri – Thank you for your continuous supportive comments (and retweets)! I am sorry to hear that you were sick for so long. My illness never did materialize past the ‘feeling yucky’ stage, so I was very lucky. Hope you are feeling well now.

  10. What an inspiring post, Donna! The insight that I draw from your piece is that each of us has the opportunity through our words and deeds to make others’ lives better. And that really is a way to change the world. Sometimes it’s not the big stuff but the little stuff that is the most important.

    Dr Sock recently posted…Wrote the Letter; Set the DateMy Profile

  11. I think we’ve all been on the receiving end of both warm, heartfelt words and punishing ones. The warm ones leave a happy glow while the hurtful ones burn long after it should matter.

    When I first retired, I reached out to someone who had been a large influence and supporter in my career. I wanted to let him know how much it had meant to me. We had a lovely conversation talking about retirement and the need to constantly learn and grow.
    He passed away a month later. I was so grateful that I had taken the time to reach out to him and have that last conversation.
    We should never be reluctant to show our appreciation, express our gratitude, or simply spread a little kindness forward.
    Joanne Sisco recently posted…Running Away To The CircusMy Profile

    1. Hi, Joanne – My sincere apologies. I was sure that I had replied to your comment. I wonder where my reply went??
      Yours is an excellent example of why we should never be reluctant to express our gratitude. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    1. Hi, Debbie – Thank you for commenting. I was fortunate that my ‘yucky feeling’ never did turn into anything so I never did fully come down with anything nasty. Positive words…they are very powerful indeed!

  12. Hi Donna, This is a lovely post and so true. It is has made me think of what and how long it must take for people who have endured long time verbal abuse, to heal. Just a heads up, the hyperlinks on this post don’t seem to be working.
    Looking forward to reading more of your posts and doing some back reading. Louise

  13. Hi, Louise – Great minds think alike — I was just doing some back reading on your blog! Good point about the hyperlinks. I hadn’t originally included any — but they are a great idea! I just went back and added two now. Thanks for commenting. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

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