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The Power of Your Words

By Matthew Arnold Stern

In my final speech at Money Talks Toastmasters on September 25, 2008, I explain why your words have power and how to use it. Watch the video below:

I’ve learned many things in the 17 years I’ve been in Toastmasters. The most important lesson I’ve learned, and the one I want to leave with all of you is this: Your words have power. Your words have power.

You can feel this power the moment you step in front of an audience. Every eye is focused on you. Every ear is tuned to the sound of your voice. The audience is waiting — anticipating — the words that come from your lips.

That’s a tremendous amount of power, and that’s why so many people are afraid to speak in public. We’re not using to having this much power, so it frightens us. “What if I sound stupid? What if I screw up? What if people ignore me? What if people think I’m a fraud?”

I’m here to tell you that you do deserve this power. When you understand why your words have power and learn how to use it, you can improve you life and the lives of everyone around you.

Why do your words have power? Why are you influential?

Whenever people ask you to speak, it’s because they believe you have something of value to offer. It doesn’t have to be a formal speech like this. It could be around a conference table at a business meeting. It could even be at a department store.

The other day, my wife and I were shopping at Target. A little girl came up to us and asked, “Can you help me find my mommy?” That girl felt that we could solve her problem simply because we’re adults.

I believe that everyone has some special expertise that can help someone. That expertise can come from our education, our work experience, our hobbies — even the era in which we were born can give us special insights. This wisdom and knowledge can be helpful to someone else. Our ability to help someone else gives us and our words their power.

We know from the comic books that with great power comes great responsibility. And we know from the history books that the power of words can be abused. The same power that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used to inspire a nation to fight for equality and justice is the same power Adolf Hitler used to lead a nation to genocide and a self-destructive war.

It’s critical that we learn to use the power of our words wisely. Here are three ways.

First, we must speak the truth. We must never misuse our power to mislead, deceive, or manipulate.

Second, we must speak to build other people up. Our words are so powerful that they can inspire others to achieve things they never thought possible — or they can destroy dreams, destroy their sense of self-worth, even destroy their desire to live.

Third, we must speak to provide solutions. With as many problems as the world has, there are an even greater number of people who are content to sit back and complain. We must be the ones to provide solutions. Even if our ideas aren’t that good, the fact that we’re even coming up with ideas will encourage others to do the same. Together, we can find the right solution.

Each of you has been given a special gift. It’s a gift you earned from a life of experiences, from your work, and from your education. It’s a gift you can hand to others to help them. Your ability to help others gives you your power. Don’t be afraid of this power. Use it to speak the truth, build others up, and provide solutions.

When you do that, you can change your life, change the lives of those around you, and perhaps change the world. That is the power of your words.