The Beauty of Language: Bigger Than Words

Have you ever thought about the difference between using “language” instead of “words?” Until recently, I did not. Then I wrote a couple of articles about “words,” and I began to wonder about the meaning of language versus words. If you give it a passing thought, you might agree they are interchangeable. For example, someone might say, “They use bad language,” or “Watch your language.” As someone who also casually used language for words, my last article prompted me to examine the definition more closely. I went to Bing to see their perspective on the difference between words and language. Aha, being in the communication business of listening and speaking, I realized, “Of course I know this.” Words are a part of language which encompasses much more than verbal communication.

Listening Professionals Must Do More

Like so many other professions but especially mine, therapists need to have excellent listening skills first and foremost. Most people assume that. What they may not think about is that therapists must be able to read between the lines as well as provide a careful delivery around sensitive topics. If they do not, they most likely will lose the client. Reading non-verbal communication, as well as delivery, is imperative, not just words but language. Before I dive into the issue further, I want to expound on the topic of language.

The Magnitude of Language

Language embodies words, tone, gestures, facial expressions, and other slight movements. It is as if you were painting a picture. The words are the colors you provide, but the outline and theme are the foundation of language. You can use colors randomly, but without the building blocks of the preliminary sketch, the significance of the colors is nonsensical. Without language, a misinterpretation of the message could be detrimental, all because of the lack of specific non-verbal communication.

I recall as a student seeing a display that showed the power of language on infants. In this program, a baby was receiving smiles from a woman whom I would assume was their mother. The infant appeared happy and smiling. Soon, the maternal figure left the room, and when she returned, she revealed a solemn if not austere expression. The infant began to cry. I do not believe there was an imparting of words. The facial expressions, however, had a significant implication on interpretation, even in this early stage of development. As evidenced by this example, children learn at a very young age to read the cues of others.

The Butterfly Effect of Language

I have also learned that no matter their achievements when they sit down in the vulnerable position of sharing their problem or secret, overall language from me is tantamount.

Therapists, Coaches, Teachers, Physicians, and to a lesser extent, Managers, Supervisors, and other leaders must pay attention to their language as well as that of their recipient. In any of these roles, if someone requires assistance, language makes all of the difference in the world. As a therapist, I have had the privilege of seeing people from diverse backgrounds. I have also learned that no matter their achievements when they sit down in the vulnerable position of sharing their problem or secret, overall language from me is tantamount. As a result, I have never been a fan of Telephone Therapy. Yes, you can hear words and tone but not experience the rest of the language. For the client, it is the same. Virtual has corrected this. Recently, I was talking with a lovely client who started to cry. I communicated that I could see their pain. The client looked at me and was surprised that the virtual could show so much detail to even their tears.

You do not have to be a therapist to be more attuned to your language. Even in corporate America, language makes all of the difference in the world. As I have discussed in my speeches and my book, Stop Depriving The World of You, Gallup determined if the workplace provided more positive reinforcement, productivity would double. Yes, words matter, but overall, language takes it over the top. Think about it. If a manager conveyed to their employee in a written statement, “Good job,” that could undoubtedly motivate some, but taking the same theme and sharing it with overall language could inspire someone in ways unimaginable. How about bringing the individual into the office and expressing with some enthusiasm and a smile, “I have noticed how well you have been performing. Great job!” You may not know the impact until a later date, as I have communicated many times regarding the Butterfly Effect.

Pay Attention To Subtleties

Even for those who struggle with facial expressions or more expressive gestures, language can have an impact. Recently, I sat with a somber individual. I made a positive comment about their openness and then said something about seeing a subtle smile forming. The individual smiled more.

You cannot overstate the influence of overall language. This embodiment is so much greater than the delicate use of words. I do not want to downplay the effect of words, but the frosting on the cake is language. You do not have to be as exuberant as me, but if you are genuine and can muster some warmth, no matter your personality type, watch what could happen. You may be beyond pleasantly surprised.

Your Thoughts?

Have you ever thought about the difference between language and words? What are your thoughts about the power of overall language? I invite you to share your thoughts.



Darlene Corbett
Darlene Corbett
Darlene Corbett views herself as a life-long learner, a pursuer of excellence, a work-in-progress, and a seeker-of-the-truth. She is also referred to as the "Unstuck Expert" in her many roles. Why? Because for over thirty years, she has been assisting people to get unstuck. Darlene's primary roles are now Therapist, Hypnotherapist, and Author/Writer. Although she loves speaking, it is now secondary and done mainly through her podcast, "Get Unstuck Now. Because of her wealth of experience, Darlene began putting her thoughts on paper.  Many of her blogs can also be found on Medium, Sixty and Me, and Penning these articles set the stage for her first book, "Stop Depriving The World of You," traditionally published by Sound Wisdom. Being a believer in pushing oneself as long as one has life, Darlene has tried her hand at fiction, hoping to have something completed in the no-so-distant future. Over the years, Darlene has been described as animated or effervescent which contradicts the perception of a psychotherapist. She firmly believes in the importance of being authentic and discusses platinum-style authenticity in her book.

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  1. Words have a profound meaning in our life. Even those that we often pronounce without thinking, distractedly, while we are thinking about something else and we do not want to “choose” the correct term. Words, and even better the way they “come out” from our mouth (the paraverbal), are able to make our state of mind explicit: you understand many things about a person’s mood just by listening to how the words are said.
    People’s spoken language is full of false concepts, false classifications, false associations. Furthermore and above all, the essential characteristics of ordinary thinking, its emptiness and its imprecision make it possible for each word to have thousands of different meanings, according to the baggage available to the speaker, and the set of associations involved in that context.
    For this reason I think it is extremely important to understand non-verbal language.
    In each case, the suggestion that I allow myself to give, assuming that you want to understand the language and the “world” of others better, is to listen deeply to the other, to go back to the origin of the words that are heard and above all to the intentions that are the basis of the sentences that are spoken.
    The deep intentions of each of us are always positive, only words, alas, tend to play unpredictable tricks. Good understanding!

  2. Very timely post, Darlene, only this morning I was talking to my adult kids about the full language to check out my stereotypes:

    A friend with a very international background communicates in Oxford British English and Italian. The spoken language is English and the body language is Italian. Think of that for a moment before you read on.

    Now, if it had been the opposite, Italian spoken with a “stiff upper lip”, it would be one situation. Totally incongruent and probably the way the Netflix series The Crown comes across if it is dubbed into Italian.
    As it is, my friend’s British accent giving expectations of “stiff upper lip” and then getting full Italian intonation and forcefulness and physical exuberance to boot is a bit overwhelming – to put it with classic British understatement.

    I know it is my stereotype of Englishmen that they don’t swing their arms and legs around unless they are extremely agitated that plays a trick here. But alas, I am not the only one as my friend too often gets in trouble because people think they are being attacked.

    I am not looking for a solution to the problem – only giving voice to an issue many people who have more than one language live with every day.

    • Thank you, Charlotte! Wow! Lots to think about when mixing spoken from one culture and body from another. I appreciate the information and will ponder it further. Thank you again!💖

  3. Hi Darlene,
    What a beautiful share I must say. I really love it, because I love language.
    Language is a forever thing, be it when spoken or body-language.
    As for your question, here in the Netherlands we speak dutch, but when I really need to boost my words, my message, I use some English words to get the positive effect I wanted.
    When using the English language, I always use inspiring, motivating, uplifting, warm or heartfelt words.
    I really feel what you are saying, it can be very simple. Just some simple warm words can uplift a persons whole spirit. This comes close to always speak with kindness and compassion, the path I always follow.

    Also funny, my niece and I where talking about the English language, as we use it a lot in our work. That the English language is much easier to express yourself and the words are more beautiful than the Dutch language.
    I will send her this essay of yours, she also will like it very much.
    Thank you for this Darlene.💖🧸

    • Thank you so much, Ineke! I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Just lovely! I am honored that you want to send this to your niece. It made my evening. Yes, language can be beautiful, and I love how it can elevate and bring things to another level. Here is a virtual smile and hug!💖

    • You are just to sweet dear Darlene, appreciate your kind response.
      And that was one of the greatest virtual smile and hug, received with much gratitude🙏💖
      Sending you a lovely smile back with a big bear HUG🧸
      Thank you so much!