What and how we say things can have an effect on both ourselves and others. It all depends on the content and the context. Language has allowed humans to survive and prosper. We have been able to communicate with others solely on the basis of the words used. However, those same words can create tension and love.
Although words can have meaning, it is only the meaning that each person gives it. Change the words in a sentence and they can have a completely different meaning. One word can lead someone to action and another word can stop a person in their tracks. Even the words you are reading in this article may have meaning to you; it all depends on how you write it and what you get out of it.
Single words can be given additional meaning using other words. They eventually form a sentence. The way they are structured within the sentence gives it meaning in one way or another.
Now, here is the trick regarding words and language. Many people tend to say a word like what they mean. For example, say the words “Statue of Liberty” as it is the Statue of Liberty. Words are just words and not the thing. The same goes for a map. The map is not the territory. It can be a representation, but not the area it represents.
However, people will get excited when a certain word is mentioned as if it were real. This can affect our behavior. Many advertisers will use words (and language) to affect our behavior, so we will buy what they offer. Politicians will use words to influence the way we vote. Poets have long used words to connect with us emotionally, as have storytellers. This happens in all languages.
Making the words we say to ourselves can help or hinder us. What if I tell you to “try something”, does that make you want to act? But what if I say “you will do something now”, is that more powerful? It is the structure of how words are used that can influence their behavior.
Now if I say the word “dog” to you, what does it mean to you? You can think of a fond memory of a family dog that you had as a child. Another person may have a terrible memory of being attacked by a dog. It is the same word with different meanings to different people. Think about these words and what meaning would you give them: Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent, Green Party, and Socialist Party? What about California, Alabama, New York, Kansas, Montana, Texas, and Washington DC?
What if I changed a sentence and said, “The dog bites the man”? What meaning does that express to you? How about I say “Man bites a dog”? Does it change things even though the same words were used?
As you can see, each one will have a different meaning from different people. Each can even cause a change in behavior in each person. However, they are just words, aren’t they? The only meaning they have is the one that each of us gives them. Also, the way the sentence is structured will give the words a different meaning.
Look at the words you use in your own life. What meaning are you giving them? What emotions do they provoke in you? Do they create any behavior in you? If you were to think rationally about this then you will know the words for what they are, just words. You are the meaning and behavior that result from the words, not the words themselves. Language and words can have a profound effect on our behavior as long as we don’t know the reality behind them.