Words Matter

Lori Hart, PhD
Lori Hart, PhD
Director of Educational Initiatives

For 15 years prior to becoming the Director of Educational Initiatives for the Holmes Murphy Fraternal Practice, I worked for a men’s national fraternity. It was there I learned the important lesson that words matter. It became very apparent in my first deposition when information the organization had written in manuals wasn’t the actual practice. Furthermore, I believe fully in the good of most students, and when the organization communicated clearly and consistently, I could see a better outcome.  Words matter.

Throughout COVID-19

COVID-19 has done a number on my theory that words matter. The term “guideline” has been the most-used term as it relates to the pandemic. As I would tell a client, a “guideline” is not a mandate, but many have confused this term to mean it is required. To others, they disregard the term and do what they want.

I recently had a client discussing what was clearly a must but used the term guideline, and then I quickly suggested a term that meant what they intended it to mean. For me, guideline is now a very confusing word in this pandemic.

In the workplace and in Life

While words matter at work, I believe they also matter in life — maybe now more than ever.

My dad has been in Hospice care for two years. He has been robbed of his ability to walk, and what is left is his mind, most days. Recently, my husband and I made a decision — a hard decision — to leave our church and begin attending another Episcopal Church in our Diocese.  In all my life, these words and this decision would have been discussed with my father as his Episcopal faith is alive in me. I didn’t include him in this discussion, and I am unsure why.

After Christmas, my dad asked me about it, and it led to tears on my part and an apology that I sincerely meant (and I don’t love to apologize…). All he has left are words from his family and caregivers. Words matter, and we can’t forget this — even in the last stages of life.

The year 2021 seemed to give us more of 2020. Some good things happened; some not so good. I hope to enter this year continuing to remember that words matter as I work with clients, as I navigate differing views on vaccines within my community, as I see someone on the street who might need my help, as I experience a new church, and as I continue to have as many words as I can sneak in with my father.

Don’t underestimate your value with your words to say “thank you” to those helping us with food orders, helping us fly somewhere, or healthcare providers who are tired and overworked.

Words matter to say, “are you OK?” to co-workers and clients who might be struggling. Words matter in just saying “hello” and being present with each other. Never underestimate your words of knowledge, kindness, and grace as we enter into 2022.

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