What has 2020 taught us about words?

What has 2020 taught us about words?

At the start of December, a colleague encouraged me to pen a blog reflecting on the year, but it felt tough to come up with anything that wouldn’t sound empty or hadn’t been said before. I know, me, speechless?!

However, this actually got me thinking about one of the topics that I usually talk about the most…

Words.

Communication came into sharp focus in 2020, and thank goodness it did. Robbed of time with colleagues, clients and loved ones, we found other ways to stay close. In fact, words – tiny invisible gestures – felt at times like they were all we had to offer. From video messages and virtual quizzes, through to little notes and cards, they mattered – a lot.

And whether people considered themselves strong communicators at the start of the year or not, I think words have had a big impact on everyone’s lives as the months have unfolded.

We learnt that words said even in the heat of the moment can have a lasting and often devastating impact – remember, #bekind. And sometimes the words that go unsaid can be just as cruel, if they’re absent when we need to hear them the most.

We’ve grown tired of the sound of some words. I bet we could think of at least 15 we’d happily never hear again after 2020 – COVID, lockdown and pivot can happily stay in room 101 forever, in my opinion! And some words were uttered so frequently they almost became meaningless, despite any genuine sincerity – ‘unprecedented times’, anyone?

The sheer volume of words we’ve had to digest at times, left them sounding little more than noise. But for other people the quiet will have no doubt been equally as overwhelming.

Sometimes, we also just haven’t been able to find the words, and I think that’s totally ok.

But let’s look at the positive differences words have made too.

Words of reassurance have provided comfort and confidence.

Carefully chosen words – when people were expecting them the least – have demonstrated empathy and togetherness.

Words have inspired, rallied, encouraged and informed. They’ve kept members of the public safe, families connected and colleagues united. They’ve kept organisations in business and employees in jobs. They’ll help leave legacies for the people taken from us in 2020, and they’ll lay the foundations for futures many of us are hopefully still to pursue.

They’ve definitely never mattered so much to me.

All of this said, I, for one, was glad of some quiet when the doors to the office closed for the holidays. I’ve communicated with every bone in my body this year – sometimes even to myself as I’ve tried to work it all out! But this doesn’t take away from how important those words have been – written, spoken, recorded and gestured – as we’ve waded through 2020.

And I’ll certainly be choosing my words carefully, in 2021.

Happy new year everyone. Be safe. Brave. And kind.

By Katie.

Photo by Mona Eendra on Unsplash