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Words That Shape Worlds – What Power Does Our Language Have In Shaping Our Reality?

Michael Odendaal is a rising figure in the realms of business and personal development. With a background in property, he's embarked on a journey to create the premier online networking platform. As a coach, Michael empowers property entrepreneurs to transform into sought-after assets.

 
Executive Contributor Michael Odendaal

I have always been fascinated by language. In fact, before my life pulled me in another direction, I was set to pursue a career in law. I have always been partial to a witty double entendre, and my favourite comedy genre is misdirection with language.


Cute girl telling a secret to her mother.

In recent years, having delved into the world of personal and professional development, I have realised that the power of language extends far beyond the meaning(s) of the words we use to the very sound & vibration those words emit, to the extent that I have come to the opinion that our language has a tangible impact on our subconscious mind and could even manipulate the world around us!

This might sound strange, but hear me out. 

In this article, I will consider two terms that describe the core component of any business, its human workforce, and highlight how the more commonly used word affects how people are regarded and subsequently treated. 

I'll delve into a fascinating study by Dr. Masaru Emoto, a renowned Japanese author and researcher. His work focuses on the effects of words, sounds, and emotions on the crystalline structure of water before concluding by posing some thought-provoking questions that will make you reconsider the language you use in your business and personal interactions.

Capital vs resources

The two words to consider are 'capital' and 'resources', particularly the connotations of using these terms about people.

According to a recent article in the Economic Times in India, 'capital' (in its economic context) is defined as a "broad term for anything that gives its owner value or advantage, like a factory and its equipment, intellectual property like patents, or a company's or person's financial assets."

Merriam-Webster defines the term' resource' as; "a source of supply or support: an available means, a natural source of wealth or revenue and a source of information or expertise" (Wei-Chi, C. (2011). Rethinking resource identification and utilisation. Management of Environmental Quality, 22(2), 187-199.). 

On the surface, there is little difference between these words in their economic contexts. As Wikipedia highlights: "In economics, labour or human resources refers to the human effort in the production of goods and rendering of services. Human resources can be defined as skills, energy, talent, abilities, or knowledge."

Sounds harmless enough, right? - Let's pause for thought.

What comes to your mind when you think of the word resource? Now, what comes to mind when you think of the word capital?

Although their meanings are closely related, in my mind (and I'm sure I'm not alone), the word 'resource' or 'resources' has a negative undertone. We tend to picture a finite commodity often exploited by humanity before it runs out, resulting in a depleted and scarred environment left behind. 

Because of the growing concern surrounding our treatment of the Earth, I have even heard people go so far as to talk about humans as being akin to 'parasites' who exploit their environment and its resources without regard for consequences. 

Now, let's consider the term 'capital'. Capital connotes an investment that produces returns. It, too, is finite but can be raised from various sources and is deployed with a positive purpose. The undertone is positive. The only negative thought that comes to my mind when thinking about capital is how it can be misused and squandered. Consequently, I have witnessed how (furnished by a desire to protect their capital) investors go to tremendous lengths to ensure its appropriate use prior to deploying it on any project. 


Dr. Emoto's research on the impact of sound & language on water molecules

Here is where things get interesting. Research may offer us a scientific explanation not just for the results I have witnessed with my network, but also for the transformations companies have witnessed when implementing principles such as Kaizen.

Dr. Emoto discovered that when he exposed water molecules to different sounds, they took on various shapes based on those sounds. Uplifting, affirmative words created beautiful structures resembling snowflakes (see image below). However, water molecules exposed to negative words took on deformed and ugly structures. Dr. Emoto tested this with polluted water from the Fujiwara Dam and witnessed the same results in polluted water.


water molecules

Photo credits here


It is worth noting that his research has drawn a fair share of criticism due to questions surrounding his scientific methodology; however, this experiment warrants further investigation as its implications are stark. 

There is a variant of this experiment that you can try at home, and I did it as a bit of fun with my children. If you're interested, here's how to do it. 

First, cook some rice and divide it into at least two containers. Label the containers positive and negative. To be scientifically thorough, set up a third container as a control to compare the others against. Once the rice is in the containers, seal them and store them in the same place for two weeks to ensure that the environmental factors are controlled as best you can. 

To the negative tub, vent all your frustrations. Swear at it, insult it. Go to town, but do this away from the positive container. To the positive container, speak affirming and positive words. Say I love you. Encourage it. Once you have talked to both containers, replace them in the same spot and repeat daily for two weeks. If using a control, don't speak to it, but observe it regularly.

At the end of the two weeks, open the containers and look at the contents inside. You will find an astonishing difference between the rice in the positive and negative containers, demonstrating that the words you have spoken over the rice have impacted it on a molecular level. I have attached a photo of my experiment to this article, showing my results. The rice with positive words spoken over it had no mould growth at all and even smelled sweet. By contrast, the rice in the negative container developed a thick layer of black mould over the top. My kids were astonished!

 

Burned brown rice on bowl

How do we see people?

 

This all leads us to some serious questions. How do we see people, particularly in a business context? How do we talk about other people? And, could the words we use predict our results by subtly transmitting to other people how we actually see them?

 

I love connecting with other entrepreneurs. Forging a network has empowered me beyond anything I could have imagined when I started. It enabled me to build a six-figure property business within a year. My network constantly helps me to access opportunities well beyond my means. 

 

My story is not unique, but it is atypical. From my experience, many entrepreneurs struggle to leverage their network's potential. Why? Could it be as simple as whether they see their network as a resource or as capital, an asset to invest in?

 

According to a December 2023 article on Personnel Today, 36% of surveyed HR professionals identified staff retention as their biggest challenge in 2024. Recruitment and staff engagement were also identified as key challenges and priority areas in 2024 (source: https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/hr-challenges-2024).

 

What is behind these challenges? Numerous macro-economic factors are blamed, but could these challenges be overcome by something as simple as a change of terminology resulting in a shift in perspective surrounding how companies support and empower their employees? 

 

The evidence would suggest so. In his book Diary of a CEO, author Steven Bartlett discusses how innovative companies have witnessed exceptional results by simply addressing some of the traditional views and practices surrounding employee management. Concepts such as Kaizen have transformed unproductive, error-prone factories into efficiency powerhouses and converted striking disenfranchised workforces into empowered teams.

 

Their changed perspectives on their human capital have produced exceptional results. 

 

Conclusion

 

Throughout this article, we've delved into the powerful role language plays in shaping our perceptions, actions, and even, potentially, the environment around us. We've considered differences from seeing people as capital versus resources and briefly considered Dr. Masaru Emoto's compelling research on how words can physically alter water molecules. 

 

But what's the point?

 

It is my considered opinion that the way we talk about our workforce, our network, and, by extension, everything from our goals to our challenges matters. 

 

I want to challenge you to review the language you use, not only about others but also in your self-talk. Talk positively and practice simple disciplines such as gratitude. Watch what happens.

 

Maybe, just maybe, we can change our lives, relationships, and even the world simply by the power of our language. 

 

If anything in this article resonates with you, please reach out to me. I would love to hear your views, even if you disagree! 


Read more from Michael Odendaal

 

Michael Odendaal, Coach and Chief Empowerment Officer

Michael Odendaal emerged as a dynamic force in the business landscape after quickly scaling a property business from nothing in 2018. However, just before he was about to launch a national franchise, disaster struck has his family was ripped apart forcing him to shut it down. Struck by the isolation and frustration that followed, Michael recognized his innate talent for forging meaningful connections and attracting investors in the property domain. Inspired by his own journey, he embarked on a mission to bridge the gap between aspiring entrepreneurs and potential investors. Thus, the inception of his groundbreaking venture—an example of his unwavering commitment to empower others and foster a thriving community of like-minded individuals.

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