Words Are as Important as Actions

Some experiments have shown that different words cause changes in the brain. Destructive words increase the production of stress hormones. Words that build you up, on the other hand, promote the release of well-being hormones.
Words Are as Important as Actions

Last update: 20 August, 2020

Sayings such as “Words will never hurt me” or “They’re just words” continue to be repeated by people who aren’t aware of the developments in language theory from the 20th century onward. Today, we know that words are acts of communication. Or, in different terms, words are as important as actions.

The truth is that we’re made of words, which are just manifestations of our ideas. Ideas, in turn, are the building blocks of culture. We relate to ourselves, to others, and to every object in the world thanks to our culture, ideas, and words. Words are part of the very essence of human beings and they have a decisive impact on our lives. That’s why we say that words are as important as actions.

“Choose your words wisely, because they will influence your happiness, your relationships, and your personal wealth.”

-Andrew B. Newberg-

The only words that won’t affect you are those that aren’t related to you. In contrast, those that are directly related to you or things you identify with cut deep. They don’t just disappear. They remain there with you, molding your feelings, emotions, and even your conscious mind. These days we can assert that verbal expressions can be as or more important than concrete actions.

Language and its impact on the brain

One of the most significant findings is that all spoken expression causes reactions in the brain. Both positive and negative words create modifications that researchers can observe. Psychiatrists Mark Waldman and Andrew B. Newberg have conducted one of the most comprehensive studies on this subject. They’re the authors of the book Words Can Change Your Brain: 12 Conversation Strategies to Build Trust, Resolve Conflict, and Increase Intimacy.

This picture symbolizes words are as important as actions because they affect the brain.

Among other information, this book indicates that researchers saw interesting brain reactions when people were exposed to the words “yes” and “no”. When a sentence starts with the word “no”, the brain releases more cortisol. This is the stress hormone. On the other hand, if a sentence begins with “yes”, more dopamine is released. Dopamine is the well-being hormone.

Along the same lines, researchers from Friedrich Schiller University Jena showed that affectionate and positive expressions activate the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. This area is related to self-image and emotional decision-making. In other words, comforting and loving words improve your self-perception and help you make better emotional decisions. These studies serve as evidence to back the claims that words are as important as actions.

Positive and negative words

Negative words are those that send a violent or aggressive message and harm a person in one way or another. These types of words have a much stronger and lasting impact than positive ones. Their impact is so great that reading some negative words for a few seconds can increase your level of anxiety. Words such as “death”, “disease”, “sadness”, “pain”, “misery”, and others can have a profound effect on you.

Words are as important as actions because they can cause suffering.

Some studies say that one negative word isn’t equivalent to one positive word. This is particularly true when someone applies the negative word openly to a person. Some experts claim that to counteract the effect of a negative word, you need to hear five positive words. That means that a single apology isn’t enough. You have to do a lot more than that.

On the other hand, researchers have noticed interesting phenomena in the work world. For example, studies have shown that if you frequently give employees words of praise and appreciation for their work, they tend to work harder. They also tend to be more cooperative and productive. As you can see, words are as important as actions or rewards, even in the work world.

Be careful what you say

On average, a person uses about 70,000 words per day. Since talking is so normal, we end up taking it for granted. Nevertheless, it’s the very essence of what we are and the foundation of the way we relate to ourselves and others. Using words appropriately has a great potential for improving or worsening your life.

It’s important to be careful of how you use language. This is particularly true in tense situations, those related to conflict, or those connected to internal problems. But we don’t mean that you should just be careful of what you say to others. You should also pay attention to what you say to yourself. Sometimes, all you need is to pause for a second to find the words that best express what you’re thinking or feeling.

Words are as important as actions

This couple knows that words are as important as actions.

The potential power of words is enormous. Colombian psychiatrist Carlos Cuéllar recommends starting and ending the day expressing your gratitude for being alive. He says that those simple actions can improve your physical and mental health considerably. Let’s make words our allies in our quest for well-being and not a trap to fall in.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Lomas, C. (2011). El poder de las palabras y las palabras del poder: enseñanza del lenguaje y educación democrática. Textos de didáctica de la lengua y la literatura, (58), 9-21.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.