Leadership on Point

Words Matter.

September 30, 2016 Sara E. Miller

In this world that we live in, populated by digital media, has the written word become both more AND less important? We have become more sensitive to language than ever before.

 

Of all that was said in the 90 minutes of the first presidential debate, I was struck most by Secretary Hillary Clinton’s “words matter.”

“YES!” I thought to myself: “That’s what I’ve been trying to say!”

In this world that we live in, populated by digital media, I feel that the written word has become both more and less important. In some ways, it matters less if you type “exectuive coahcing richard levin,” because Google’s algorithms have become more adept at knowing what it thinks you really meant:

And yet, the written word has become more crucial than ever. At a time when I (and my peers) get the majority of our news from the internet, rather than the television, the ways in which stories are presented matter all the more—for an example, see the ways in which “winning the debate” was defined differently by different populations (pundits vs. candidates’ supporters, for example), setting both as winners and losers.

It is the reason people are decrying a lack of civil discourse – or decency, or whatever words you choose to call it – we have become more sensitive to language than ever before, while believing it is less important.  It’s the difference in a workplace of saying “Thank you” before asking someone to complete another task. It’s the way in which we demonstrate that we know the value of those who are close to us – or don’t. It’s also the way in which the value (and values!) of a company or organization are exhibited to its stakeholders and the world. In short, without the carefully-chosen written word, we would fail at communicating our values.

In the Jewish tradition, this is the time of year for consideration of the ways in which we have hurt others, whether intentionally or not. It is a time for reflection, reckoning, and reconciliation. Whether words were intended for harm or a careless typo, one is still held accountable.

I believe strongly that #WordsMatter. I believe that words are the building-blocks to networked communities and civil societies creating a #SharedPurpose. And even though some say that “actions speak louder,” I believe that words are the first steps on that path.

Sara E. Miller is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for Richard Levin & Associates.