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  • Gary Borland

#51 The Impact of Language



How you speak can change the world around you.


The words we use matter. The way in which we speak those words matters. Who we are being is as important as the words we’re using, so what if we paid attention to what happens when we’re around other people? We might notice that we’re not intentional about some of our conversations and that we’re not really as focused on the impact we have or would like to have on someone. Considering that more fully might offer us insights about the effectiveness of our communication and our impact on the world around us.


Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States as well as being a drafter and signer of the Declaration of Independence. The following quote is worth reading a few times.


“I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradictions to the sentiment of others, and all positive assertions of my own, I even forbade myself the use of every word or expression in the language that imparted a fixed opinion, such as ‘certainly’, ‘undoubtedly’, etc., and I adopted, instead of them, ‘I conceive’, ‘I apprehend’, or ‘I imagine’ a thing to be so and so, or ‘it so appears to me at present’. When another asserted something that I thought in error, I’d deny myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition; and in answering I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but in the present case there appeared or seemed to me some difference etc. I soon found the advantage of this change in my manner; the conversations I engaged in went more pleasantly. The modest way in which I proposed my opinions procured them a readier reception and less contradictions; I had less mortifications when I was found to be in the wrong and I more easily prevailed with others to give up their mistakes and join with me when I happened to be in the right.

And this mode, which I first put on with some violence to natural inclinations, became at length so easy and so habitual to me, that perhaps for these fifty years past no one has ever heard a dogmatical expression escape me. And to this habit (after my character of integrity) I think it principally owing that I had earned so much weight with my fellow citizens when I proposed new institutions, or alterations in the old, and so much influence in public councils when I became a member; for I was a bad speaker, never eloquent, subject to such hesitation in my choice of words, hardly correct in language, and yet I generally carried my points”


Try approaching conversations using the principles in Benjamin Franklin’s quote and observe how positively things change around you. In our experience of working on ourselves and with many others, this can be really challenging to do at any level, let alone to achieve the mastery he describes in this part of the quote:


And this mode, which I first put on with some violence to natural inclinations, became at length so easy and so habitual to me, that perhaps for these fifty years past no one has ever heard a dogmatical expression escape me.”


We’ll look a bit more in the next blog about some of the things that are likely to get in the way of your own personal mastery and consider ways in which these might be overcome.

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