Words matter

Dennis Sparks

Words matter.

They create energy or destroy it. They can produce an upward flow of possibility and energy or a downward spiral of resignation and hopelessness.

The language that administrators and teacher leaders use affects the ability of the school community to solve problems and to achieve its most important goals.

It is essential that leaders cultivate discernment about the words that create upward or downward spirals of energy and then to carefully choose the words that they use.

Which words increase your energy and which ones deplete it?

8 Responses to “Words matter”

  1. 1 Jim Knight March 4, 2015 at 5:20 am

    This is a great question, and my quick response is that words (and actions) that turn away from self-centeredness are the words that create energy. When I’m with someone who genuinely cares about others or communicates empathy, I am energized more than when I am with someone who communicates they mostly care (at least in the moment) about themselves.

  2. 3 G. Michael Abbott March 4, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Absolutely right. Think Winston Churchill during the beginning of WWII. Or think Carter with his “malaise” speech. Think “will” versus “might.” Think collegially vs militarily (“We” vs. “you must”). Think educationally vs. corporately (helping colleagues vs. firing them for poor student test scores). “What do you need?” vs. “You’ll take it and like it.” Think even words such as “the” vs “a.” Time “THE” Weekly Newsmagazine vs. Time “A” Weekly Newsmagazine. Time wisely chose “the.”

    We need service leadership, for the most part. We need W. Edwards Deming continuous growth leadership. Words define them.

    Words define everything.


  3. 5 Elena March 4, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Love this post 🎇😊I did this very exercise with my grade 9 students last semester and talked about words having energy and vibrations as a vocabulary exercise and then they were to create their own subway art pieces to create inspirational reminder to self , totally resonate with your ideas …glad I signed up to your blog!

    Sent from my iPhone


    • 6 Dennis Sparks March 4, 2015 at 10:32 am

      I am really pleased that you are following my blog as well, Elena! What a wonderful exercise to do with your students to both increase their vocabulary and promote their emotional intelligence.

  4. 7 Kent Peterson March 18, 2015 at 10:33 am

    A clear and meaningful set of ideas for leaders. Great to read and reread.
    Words and actions; actions and words–they need to be consistent, authentic, and carefully chosen. As you say, they can build positive energy, culture, and focus or draw a school down into negativity.

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