January 11, 2016

The most powerful words in the English language

You may have been expecting a sentence or phrase with magical power to change your life. That's not what this is. Rather the following 5 words are a list of words that provide the greatest potential for us as human beings. In that sense, it's true for any language because the potential is there regardless of the language being spoken.

Keep in mind that I am looking at words individually, and not as part of a phrase.  You'll often see "I am" listed as the most powerful words simply because whatever you follow them with defines you as a person.  But "I am" consists of two words, not one.

With that in mind here's my Top 5 list.

5. Love.

What? It's not number one? No. It may be the number one most powerful emotional state, but not as a word. Yes saying 'I love you' is powerful, and it certainly plays a strong part in the propagation of the species. It also provides social glue in that saying it encourages bonding between family and often friends. These social structures are necessary for society to function. That all said, you cannot convey the feeling by the word alone. Not to get all semantic, but you require a phrase or sentence to tell someone you love them. Other words on this list accomplish results without requiring the assistance of other words.

But tell people you love, that you love them anyway.

4. No.

No is more powerful that yes. All the hippie notions about 'yes' being affirming and 'no' being spirit-crushing. No is more necessary than yes. No puts societal constraints on an otherwise unconstrained populace. It sets boundaries. No murder. No theft. No helps keep society from descending into anarchy. From that perspective No is absolutely critical.

On a personal level, no is never fun to hear. But every choice you make you are saying yes to one option but you are saying no to an equal or greater number of options. You say no far more than you say yes. No, is part of free will.

You can always say no to something.

3. How.

How can...How does... How does something work? How does something happen? How can something be done better? From the elemental building blocks of the universe to the inner workings of a clock, our understanding of 'How' is what gives us the ability to do more. It is one of the core components of human learning, and it is certainly at the crux of human creativity and invention.

Without how, we might not have mastered fire, or the wheel, or irrigation. We would not know how to sail, or to fly.

How drives innovation.

2. Please.

Society at it's core hinges on, or holds together because of the cultural norms it engenders. Take away those norms and society becomes less polite, coarser, and more prone to decay or dissolution.

Please, is the prime nicety in the lexicon. Arguably Thank You rates as well, because the expression of gratitude is the reward for helping someone in need, but Please does more than that. It imparts respect to the listener. It promotes cooperation and it posits a peaceful resolution to a situation that sidesteps the notion of taking for yourself what is needed, by force. By asking please you are foregoing the violent alternative.

Please also provides hope. In times of difficulty or despair, the hope that some help can be granted, if it is only asked, imbues us with an important ingredient that at times is all that is available to keep us going.

Asking please is always advisable.

1. Why.

Why is a more powerful word than How because How seeks to understand the mechanics of something, but why seeks to understand why the mechanics work, or why something else can't work better. Alternately why seeks to find the reason something has happened or will happen or won't. Why is about the underlying reality of anything.

Asking why spurs innovation. Asking why spurs imagination, it is at the root of discovery, it is more than the mechanics of science it is about why science even exists.

Asking why is never a bad idea.

There you go, that's my list. Did I miss any words or exclude more deserving ones? Let me know.
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