Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC

Full disclosure: This blog was inspired by a recent sermon on James 3, which mentions how much damage we can do with what we say.

The tongue weighs an average of 70 grams and is 3.3 inches in men and 60 grams and 3.1 inches for women. OK, guys, hold your, um, tongues on what you are about to say right now! Yes, we know, on average we talk more! 

But at least the human tongue, while often causing trouble, is proportionate. Did you know that on average, a chameleon’s tongue is roughly twice the length of its body? In humans, that would be a tongue about 10 to 12 feet long. Talk about tripping over your tongue! Or did you know a blue whale’s tongue weighs over 5,000 pounds and is roughly the size of most elephants! Now that’s a big tongue.

But beyond all these somewhat useless facts (unless they come up in a trivia game — then “you’re welcome”) I want to concentrate on how mighty this little organ is. 

As I have been diving deep in mentorship lately, I realize how much can be destroyed by our words. And like toothpaste, once they are “out of the tube,” there is no taking them back. And if you think saying things like, “I was only joking,” or the infamous “bless your heart,” or the written “LOL” is going to take the sting of your words away, you are very mistaken.

Many of us are damaged and now easily triggered by words someone let loose on us when we were young, proving how harmful and lasting ill-placed words can be. 

Think for a moment: Do you ever come down on yourself? Saying something like, “I am such an idiot,” or “Stupid, stupid,” or any other self-harm words? Where do you think those words came from in the first place? What takes a second to say can cause a lifetime of damage.

Words have power. Why can’t we use that power for good instead of harm?

I am not just talking about verbal words. Now with social media we have become so much more damaging. Just like that silly commercial where the guy says, “The waiter doesn’t need to know your name,” everyone doesn’t need to know your opinion.

Especially as it comes to mentorship, we can build someone up and help them grow (AND retain them) with our words, or we can belittle them, and, next thing you know, you are turning over that position yet again.

So, I want to share a mnemonic I learned. THINK.  Just think before you open your mouth or use your “thumb tongue.”

T = True

Is what you are about to share absolutely true or is it just your opinion or something you saw online and “shared” without checking out the facts?

H = Helpful

Is what you are about to share helpful or hurtful? (Yes, I realize most narcissists think everything they share is helpful but I am referring to most people.)

I = Inspiring

Will what you say inspire someone? Help them want to be their best? 

N = Necessary

This is a big pause word. Is it REALLY necessary to share what you are about to say or will the sun still rise tomorrow if you don’t? (Again, sorry narcissists, but everything on your mind is just not necessary to share!)

K = Kind

Will your words be kind? Can we say, “You seem to be struggling a bit with that. It is a tough one. Let me help you master this.”  Or will you say, “This is ridiculous. You should have gotten that by now.”

Please remember, your tongue is a spark that can set a fire of destruction or set a fire of inspiration and positive change. So, next time, before those words leave your mouth (or thumbs) , think about the fire you really want to set. I believe in you!

Just positively saying …

Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, Senior Director of Clinical Innovation and Education for Mission Health Communities, LLC and an APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real-life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.