The Power of a Kind Word

“You’re beautiful!” I overheard a woman entering church say to my friend. My friend really is beautiful and looks years younger than her age. Later she asked, “Who is that woman?” indicating the lady who’d complimented her. “I like her.”

Last week, I shared how a stranger’s, “You’re ugly” comment stung Larry. The above newcomer’s “You’re beautiful,” had the opposite effect. These simple two word sentences affected the hearers long after they were said. Each sentence began with “You’re” but ended with an opposite adjective that produced diametrically different responses. The power of a single word!

Another friend had a woman she supervises approach her, “You have mentored me in every area of my life. I am so thankful to have you as my boss.” Sandi chuckled to me, “I guess I can retire now. I’ve done my job.”

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose (Proverbs 18:21 The Message)

Ephesians 4:29 instructs us to build others up according to their needs. Building words instruct, improve, affirm, or promote growth. When we give sincere compliments, and focus on a person’s good qualities, the listener is built up.

Years ago in a seminar, Christian counselor and author, Norm Wright shared some surprising research. Studies found that the more energy exerted on a negative aspect in a person or a relationship, the worse that negative trait became. The more attention focused on the positive areas, the better the positive became. The takeaway—focus the most energy on the qualities that you want to see grow and the least on the ones you want eradicated.

Human nature tends to do the opposite. We take for granted the good traits in those close to us, but notice and point out when someone fails to meet our expectations. This is especially true for those with whom we work and live. The distinction between instructing and criticizing may be the variation of your voice tone or attitude, but that contrast becomes the difference between blessing and cursing.

To offer a kind word, try the following:

  • Express appreciation: “Good job!” “Thanks for sharing your ideas. I will consider them.” “Thanks for providing so I can stay home with our children.” “What a great dinner!” “I appreciate you mowing the lawn every Saturday.” “Thanks for working extra to meet this deadline.” “Thanks for listening.”
  • Commend good character: “Your hard work really shows.” “I can tell you really want the best for your team.” “That took real courage to tell her the truth.” “I am so glad you value people over programs.” “Your generosity to those in need sets an example for me.”
  • Notice their good qualities: “You are so much fun!” “Your positive attitude helps us all.” “I am so glad you caught the details we missed.” “What a whiz you are with numbers.”

An ancient quote reads, “Criticism comes easier than craftsmanship.” Zeuxis (464 ~400 BC) Let’s be craftsmen anyway! Your kind word may touch a life forever.


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  1. Diane

    Debbie – I love you. Thank you for your wonderful words of wisdom. I miss you! Let’s get together soon!

  2. Laura

    I often read but seldom respond. So in keeping with your message:
    You bless me with your writings. I love to read them and meditate on the message. Thank you for doing this and being the sweet woman you are.

  3. Pat

    Powerful message….but only powerful if we put it into practice. Thanks, Pat

    • debwilson

      Thank you for your kind words. You have blessed me!

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