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Why Words Matter

It was the end of October 2018 and I was sat in a Cardiff café looking out at the rain and wondering about life, the universe and everything. I knew that in a little under two months I would be leaving the Welsh Government where I’d have worked for nearly eight years, and looking to start my own business. I knew what I wanted to do, but no idea what to call myself, or how to frame the business, so I started jotting words down on a blank sheet of paper. And the two words that shone through the scribbles were these: Words Matter.

In a time of growing political instability and unease, I know I would have written them down in an article or speech draft probably half a dozen times already. But, it felt like the perfect fit for what I wanted to do – to write speeches with positive impact, and to teach and advise people on how to write and present – persuasively, but responsibly too. To be their best selves as someone once said. I punched the words into Google, and the first thing that came up was a news result from two days before about the victory speech of Michael D Higgins in the Irish Presidential race. I’d not seen the speech before, but I was aware that he’d won, and beaten a media-friendly populist candidate in the process. These are the words he said:

A real republic is a life lived together and ‘together’ has been one of those words that has resonated throughout this campaign, as has another word - authenticity.

Both are so important.

People are interested in conversations and ideas that are sincere and constructive.

Words matter. Words can hurt. Words can heal. Words can empower. Words can divide.

It sealed the deal. It was a wonderful speech, and for my world-view at least, a perfect sentiment. Togetherness, authenticity, words matter. These were all notions by which I’d lived my professional life, and building blocks on which I wanted to create my business. The fact I’d scribbled those words and then seen them delivered in such passionate terms in President Higgings’s speech made it feel like fate.

Now, nine months later, I’m grateful to be busy enough to only now have the time to write this first blog. And I find myself doing it the day after some MPs left the House of Commons in tears after the most divisive and raucous sitting I can ever recall in my lifetime at least. There’s a phrase I’m seeing again and again all over social media this morning – and it is this: words matter.  And they really do. When the language of tolerance is replaced with the language of intolerance, then action will surely follow – as night follows day. In a world where so much of what we used to do is now automated, our words and the way we communicate with one another has become ever more important. I can’t decide if I’ve gone into the words business at just the right, or just the wrong time. But, I know this. Words matter. If we respect the words we choose, then it shows respect for the people we are talking to. And it is no time for respect to take a holiday.

 

Click here for the YouTube clip of Michael D Higgins speech.

 

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