what to say woman big mouth open lipstick communication wasted words

I read a claim today that women talk three times more than men: 20,000 words per day for women compared with 7,000 for the average man. However, more recent and credible research counters this, stating that the average adult of either sex utters about 16,000 words per day.

To get a better grasp of that number, imagine trying to count from 1 to 16,000 in one stretch. Ready? Go!  1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … 6 … 7 … 8 … 9 … 10 … 11 …

Is it sinking in yet just how large a number 16,000 words really is?

My goal today isn’t to debate who’s talking more. It’s simply to say that we are all talking an awful lot. But what are we actually saying with all those words?

Remember that words and language exist for the intended purpose of telekinesis. Mind reading. A means of allowing images, emotions – even sound, smell, taste and touch – to be formed in one brain and teleported to another. So for all of that volume of words coming out of our mouths, we certainly ought to be able to bring back to mind a multitude of those images and vibes we sent out into the world today.

But can you? Can I?

We utter about 16,000 words per day. But what are we actually SAYING with all those words? communication challenge

I just returned from a trip. I was states away, doing some observation and workshops. It just so happens that the event I was observing was a state-level beauty pageant: a week of preliminary nights culminating in the crowing of that state’s winning contestant, who will now move on to compete for the title of Miss America. I observed two days of this pageant, which included 12-hour rehearsals each day, followed by 3- or 4-hour performances before a live audience in a large theater.

During my stay, I was free to roam about as I wished, all the while wearing a headset so that I could listen in to the tech crew behind the scenes. With a full sound, lighting and stage crew; theater personnel; choreographers; pageant directors; county executive directors; maintenance workers; and nearly 50 competing girls, suffice it to say … I was caught in a swirling maelstrom of words. The funny thing is, even with an above-average memory, I can remember very little of the actual content of what anyone said. Rather, most of it left only a sort of visceral impression.

Some of the words were those coming across my headset or being shouted from the front to the girls on stage, largely composed of instructions and information relevant to the job or the event. But be assured that much of the twelve-hour rehearsals was not instructive.

I remember the maintenance staff being quite friendly, but I can’t for the life of me remember anything they said. Light-hearted banter and general agreement, I suppose.

But most of the interaction by far was not so congenial (and, ironically, came from among the contestants and directors who claim that “congeniality” is an important value of the competition itself).

I heard gossip. Ridicule. Sarcasm. Derision. Wheedling. Arguments. Complaining. Deception. Contempt. Demands. Tantrums.

Even the words that many of the girls sang during their performances were unmemorable.  Though there was more than sufficient volume, the songs did not emanate from the stage in a way that moved anyone with their beauty or message, not because the singers lacked talent particularly, but because a larger, obscuring message was being conveyed through body language and overall demeanor: “Look at me! Aren’t I incredible? You know I am!”

You may think I’m stepping into ground where I am judging motives. In this instance, however, I don’t think that is the case. I was able to listen in on the backstage chatter from contestants before they hit the stage, to hear the petulant demands for gown fluffers and “more warm lighting in my hair,” and to watch snarls become gleaming white smiles when the lights came up.  I can say with certainty that, for many contestants, all day every day was a continual “me moment.”

That said, amid this environment, the gracious few who said “thank you” to tech crew, or who exclaimed “Nice job!” to a friend who had just performed, were rare enough to stand out like fireflies in the dark.

On stage, rote questions were asked and rote answers were given (all with an air of trying to sound spur-of-the-moment).  “Puppies” and “love” and “world peace” abounded.  But I didn’t even see much love or peace happening in the microcosm of the theater, let alone the world.  And I didn’t see a single puppy, either.

As the pageant came to a close and Monday’s workshops with the audio-visual crew got underway, words were used in wholly different ways from what I’d observed in the theater. Aside from the words that went into my own presentations, participants used their words to take some positive social risks. They shared about the recent death of loved ones and their need for community. They revealed that they only feel safe to be adventurous within a framework of structure. They expressed feeling afraid when they don’t know the answer to a question. This choice to engage in honest self-disclosure allowed others to use their words to encourage, to validate, to share ideas. It was a true dynamic, and a positive one.

I had handed out a short form before we began. The last question was “What is one word that describes how you are feeling going into this workshop?” Answers included “curious,” “anxious” and “nervous.”  Yet in the post-workshop form, people reported feeling “fascinated,” “relaxed” and “beyond excited.” Their one-word descriptions had changed because of how the group had chosen to use our many words in between.

And that is my point. Words relay images, emotions, vibes. It stands to reason, then, that negative words relay negative images, emotions and vibes, spreading them like a virus. Likewise, positive and constructive words relay positive and constructive images, emotions and vibes. And wasted words are wasted opportunities altogether.

Wasted words are wasted opportunities. Inspirational quote effective communication

Will you use your 16,000 words today to criticize or to encourage?

To demand or to offer?

To complain or to compliment?

To cause laughter or furrowed brows?

To ease a burden or to create one?

To focus on yourself or to share the limelight with others?

Your 16,000 opportunities await. Ready? Go! 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … 6 … 7 … 8 … 9 … 10 … 11 …

Miss America pageant 2015 communication

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About Erik

I'm an author, speaker, blogger, facilitator, people lover, creative force, conversationalist, problem solver, chance-taker, listener, noticer and lover of life. "It's more about writing lives than writing pages." View all posts by Erik

21 responses to “blabber

  • Dave

    Our speech has a powerful effect not only on others, but ourselves as well. If you complain all the time, you are going to develop a ‘victim consciousness’. If you are positive in your interactions with others, you will be well-received, and people will appreciate your presence. The bottom line is speech is a reflection of our thoughts, and, as we think so we become.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Mira Prabhu

    Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
    “Words relay images, emotions, vibes. It stands to reason, then, that negative words relay negative images, emotions and vibes, spreading them like a virus. Likewise, positive and constructive words relay positive and constructive images, emotions and vibes. And wasted words are wasted opportunities altogether.” Read Erik’s interesting post on the immense value of words….thanks, Erik!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      Thank YOU, Mira, for reading, sharing … and choosing to stick around. Love your avatar; your kindness is evident, so I’m not surprised you connected with this post.


  • raulrgonza

    Loved your post! And you’ve got a point; words are some of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal and one of the few things we have total control over. Why not try to make a conscious decision to use our words to build rather than destroy.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Sean P Carlin

    If we considered every word uttered as spending “karmic capital,” we’d probably say a lot less, mean a lot more, and choose our words much more carefully.

    Thoughtful piece, as always, Erik.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Jean M. Cogdell

    If women use more words than men, it’s because we have more to say. Hopefully, it’s constructive words. LOL Jean’s Writing

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      Thanks for reading and sharing, Jean. At least according to the one researcher cited, both the most economical and the most talkative speakers in the test group were men, at 500 and 50,000 words respectively, I believe. Some of the most reserved people I’ve ever known have been the wisest and most kind; and some of the most loquacious have been word wasters. And yet I have experienced the opposite, as well: the curt curmudgeons and the verbose venerables. Whoever is talking, men or women, and however few or many our words may be, it always comes down to choice on how those words are used.

      Liked by 2 people

  • D. Wallace Peach

    Great post. I could feel the negative energy as you used your “words” to describe it. The older I get, the more I’m convinced that everything is pure energy. I believe that what we put out there, in thought, voice, and physical action becomes a ripple in this huge interconnected web of which we are a part. We are closest to the ripples we create and buffeted by their influence. If we exude derision, bigotry, selfishness, and a belief in scarcity and division, we’ll find it throughout our lives. The opposite is also true. If we direct our energy (and words) into love, kindness, friendship, generosity, and compassion, it will flow through us and infuse our relationships with the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Jed Jurchenko

    “And that is my point. Words relay images, emotions, and vibes.” This is a great line and it is so true. Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP for short, suggests that a person can alter their mood by changing their language. It is interesting how much truth there is to this. I heard one motivational speaker say that when he gets angry, instead of saying, “I’m furious,” he says, “I’m really miffed right now.” The word “miffed,” sounds a little goofy and does not carry the same emotional impact as words like “furious, angry, and enraged.”

    I’ve played around with these concepts in my own life, and it is pretty amazing how well these simple NLP techniques work. Language is powerful and you are so right, “constructive words relay positive and constructive images, emotions and vibes.” Positive words put us in a positive mood and they strongly influence those around us too.

    Of course, some people take this concept too far and act like changing one’s language will fix everything. This tool is not a magic-wand by any means, but it is amazing just how powerful language is. Erik, thanks for this excellent reminder to choose our words wisely and not to let them go to waste 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      Thanks for adding great thoughts and extended info to the discussion, Jed. In thinking about your motivational-speaker example of “miffed,” I couldn’t help but recall all of the euphemisms used by Kathy Bates’ character in Misery, further supporting your idea that, while language changes can have positive effects, they do not by any means guarantee making an inherently mean person less mean!


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