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Use Your Words

As a mom of a 4-year-old and 8-year-old, I frequently find myself using the phrase, “Use your words.” The other day, my youngest wanted something on a high-up shelf and was pointing to it. I looked up and there were only like a gazillion possibilities. So I said, “use your words.”

At his age, his words are imprecise. Last night could mean the night prior but it could also mean anytime in the past. Orange might be anything on the spectrum between yellow and magenta. But even words that don’t guide directly are more helpful than guessing.

It made me think about all the ways we can use words, especially when writing. Here are three of my favorites:


Our ability to teach other people what we know or have discovered is astounding. If I had to draw it out or act it out, we’d all be here for a LOOOONG time.

“The capacity to learn is a gift; The ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.”

Brian Herbert

Cristiana and Michelle are great at sharing knowledge through their writing. Thinking about one of Crisbiecoach’s recent post on outrospection – she introduced me to a new word and also got me thinking about the balance of inner and outer. And Michelle offered another great example with her recent post about how consumption, sustainability, and simplicity all tie together.

Whether I’m reading how to replace a board on my deck or the finer points of philosophy, I’m so grateful that others use their words to communicate what they have learned because it helps me immensely.


“The words you speak become the house you live in.”


I frequently don’t understand “life.” I wend my way through the day and it seems like there are some unifying threads running through it if I could just see it from enough distance. But then I slow down to write it down and something magically pops. Here’s an example.

The other day a co-worker unloaded in an out-of-character way. I was so surprised and impacted by this that I wrote it down as a story, simply for my own use – almost a transcription of “they said” and “I said.” By the time I’d gotten the words out, I felt as if I’d created a storage space for the event; a way to buffer the rest of my day so that the after-effects of my conversation didn’t layer on to all the rest of my interactions.

Then two days later I got an email from the co-worker apologizing. They let me know about some personal stuff going on that colored their conversation with me. We can process it now (and maybe save ourselves from having to apologize) or we can process later, but putting words to the experience helps sort it all out.

One of the most impactful ways I think we use words is this full-circle processing and connection. We write to understand and then, for the stuff we publish, it connects us to others and their experience.


At bedtime the other night, I was warning my 8-year-old daughter not to hit her brother. She retorted to me, “What? Do you want to me to grow up all Martin Luther King like non-violent?” I was so surprised by the out of the blue reference that I not only stopped talking, but also burst out laughing. And then we were all giggling and whatever had caused the kerfuffle was forgotten.

Words have magical power. They can bring either the greatest happiness or deepest despair.

Sigmund Freud

Yes, I do want my kids to grow up all non-violent. They probably have a better chance of that if they remember to use their words, hopefully in ways that invoke the best use of that magical power.

If your words are your tools, do you think about what kind of mark you are leaving?

It’s reported that actor James Caan said his least favorite words were “I don’t care.” I’ve written about this on my personal blog in a post: Caring Less Without Being Careless.

I also post on Mondays at the Heart of the Matter blog, a great shared blog of personal storytelling with a podcast that highlights inspirational creatives. My book about my journey to find what fueled my dad’s indelible spark and twinkle can be found on Amazon: Finding My Father’s Faith.

You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @wynneleon

(featured photo from Pexels)

30 thoughts on “Use Your Words

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the power of words, enjoyed your daughter’s bedtime comment.

  2. I smiled when reading your description of saying “Use your words” to your kids, as I remembered saying that my daughters. (They’re 20 years old, so I don’t say that any more!) And I really like how you described creating a storage space for the conversation with your co-worker. That’s a great way to put it. Writing can help me process experiences. It’s another way that words can have magical power 🙂

    1. I love how that phrase made you smile, Dave! You’re so right about the magical power of words – they are amazing, aren’t they? Thanks for the great comment!

  3. “putting words to the experience helps sort it all out”–yes! One of my top-10 gifts from Brown was this idea, which I’d struggled to match to words. Words don’t just describe the experience; they shape it. I love how truly your example demonstrates this!

    And the “all Martin Luther King like non-violent?” bit?! Bwahaha, I am still giggling with appreciation! 😀

  4. “The words you speak become the house you live in.”


    Wow! Great quote Wynne.
    It reminds me to moderate my temperamental use of words when I’m lashing out!
    This made me think of another quote which is so true for me …
    “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can also hurt me. Stones and sticks break only skin, while words are ghosts that haunt me. Slant and curved the word-swords fall, it pierces and sticks inside me. Bats and bricks may ache through bones, but words can mortify me.” › quotes

    1. That’s so funny, Margaret – because I was thinking of the original way we spoke this limerick when I was a kid as I wrote this. Yes, words wound and mortify. Such a good quote!

  5. I agree that words are powerful things. They can build someone up or tear them down. Yet, too often we throw them around carelessly without considering their impact on others. An important reminder, Wynne.

  6. “We write to understand and then, for the stuff we publish, it connects us to others and their experience.” This is one of the best parts of blogging. Words are truly powerful, and I love the tie back to imparting the wisdom on your kids young.

  7. I think I need to add to my collection of writing quotes. There’s any number of Wynne Leon quotes to add here, but here’s two that are sticking out to me: “But, even words that don’t guide directly are more helpful than guessing.” Or this one. “We can process it now (and maybe save ourselves from having to apologize) or we can process later, but putting words to the experience helps sort it all out.” Great stuff here Wynne.

  8. I love the act of writing when we’re perplexed and your description of giving thoughts a storage space – a place to roost outside yourself – to consider from a distance? Brilliant! 🥰❤️🥰

  9. The post and the quotes are excellent. And we are definitely the words we use. I also like your daughter’s comment. Thank you for making reference to my post!

  10. Wynne, many memories, emotions, and ideas went through my mind as I read this engaging post about the power of words. “Use your words.” is a powerful admonition that, unfortunately, didn’t become popular until after my children were grown. “Let’s talk about it.” was fairly close. <3

    Wishing you and your family a delightful Halloween and a beautiful week!

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