How Words Impact Our Perception

Story by Camryn Hulsey, Reporter

Ever heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? How true does that statement ring to you?

We hear, see, and speak an abundance of words all the time. Some of us more than others, but the point is that subconsciously we’re impacted by them every day. Do words take a real toll on us though? Think about it. Does a simple compliment in the hallway lighten your mood on a rough day? Does a rude comment diminish your cheerful spirits?

The National Psychology Association would say that nearly 59 percent of people between ages eight and 42 would say that hearing someone say a positive comment gives them a temporary sense of happiness. However, they say that 81 percent of people between those ages, both men and women combined, admit to being affected more long term by negative or bashing comments.

Is that true for you? Would you say you fall into those statistics as well? The majority of those involved in the study say that the effect of ungracious words stems from bullying at a young age. From middle school to graduation, to being in a work place, or even just existing in society, we all receive criticism; to what extent that criticism impacts us is measured on a broad spectrum.

By the time high school students reach their senior year, one in three say that they have experienced verbal bullying according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) and 48 percent of other students say that they can’t remember the last time they had received a compliment or reassurance of something that made them feel better.

“Most of the students in the study reported name calling was the most prevalent type of bullying, followed by teasing, rumor spreading, physical incidents, threats, isolation, and more,” DHHS said.

There are many ways that words can disturb a person’s mind, whether it’s meant to be abusive, or good-hearted.

“I’d say I am positively affected by kind words, usually just for a couple hours, I don’t go home with it still on my mind. But, if someone says something that makes me feel crummy there’s a couple time I’ve cried over it once I was alone,” an anonymous source said.

Even 57 percent of teachers say that within the workplace they’ve experienced working beside people who don’t necessarily treat them, or others, very respectfully.

“Sometimes people who think they’re above everyone else in the workplace are prone to barbaric habits; my job had been threatened a couple times at one of my old schools because I didn’t whole heartedly believe in handling things the way they did,” an anonymous staff member said.

The moral of the story is that someone’s perception is their reality, and sometimes the delivery of criticism can be really hurtful or really uplifting. Words are hard hitting; they affect people in society day in and day out. Think before you speak; don’t add to the statistics.