Monday, March 3, 2014

Before You Speak -- THINK

Image by Ivan Prole

I read an article about a Texas woman who sued the producers of the now defunct American reality show "Extreme Makeover" for more than one million dollars. The show depicted ordinary men and women undergoing "extreme makeovers" that involved plastic surgery, exercise regimens, hairdressing and wardrobing. Each episode ended with the participants' return to their families and friends, showing the reactions of their loved ones, who had not been allowed to see the incremental changes during their absence.

The woman came to Los Angeles to be a contestant on the show after undergoing a series of medical exams to determine if her crooked teeth and droopy eyes could be fixed and her small breasts enhanced. They determined she might be a good candidate for their extreme makeover techniques and signed her on.

To prepare for the show, the producers sent a crew to her home to interview the woman and her family. The suit claims the Extreme Makeover crew manipulated the contestant's sister into making blunt and cruel statements on camera disparaging her sister's looks, presumably for more dramatic effect on television.

But the night before the woman's makeover was to begin, the show's producers told her it would take too long for work on her jaw to heal and she would not be able to participate as a makeover recipient. They canceled her appearance and she returned home to her distraught sister who had made the hurtful remarks. The sister was so upset over what she had said, she eventually took her life, according to the suit. The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court.

There are few things in this world as powerful as words. Too late this family learned that, once hurtful words have been spoken, they can never be retrieved.

We're told that architect Frank Lloyd Wright had his own ideas on the power of words. He once said, “I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters.” (That gives me pause each time I sit down to write.)

But words alone can affect great good as well as evil. A few apt words have swept candidates into office, ended as well as started wars, paved the way for peace and carried with them both hope as well as despair. Words alone have ruined lives, but have also brought forth healing. It is well known the harm words can cause, but the good they can bring is equally impressive.

Your words of encouragement at the appropriate time can lift a person from hopelessness or build a lasting bridge of friendship. They seem little things, but carry with them tremendous power.

Here is some of the best advice I've come across concerning how we use words.

Before you speak (before you write): THINK.
     T    is it True?
     H    is it Helpful?
     I     is it Inspiring?
     N    is it Necessary?
     K    is it Kind?

Your words have immeasurable power. Use them with care.

– Steve Goodier

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