Words Of Power

From Of Seeds and Sowers, NAICR’s distinguished newsletter that includes current programs, projects and tele-classes, as well as humor and inspiration. Visit the site to learn more about the work of Barbara Ashley Phillips and Kenneth Cloke.

What is it that gives words power?


When you say, “no,” do you find yourself repeating it again and again, knowing inside of its weakness?


When someone has said “no” to you, how have you received it? You discover much about the base for words by letting them work inside of you. If you recall a time when you’ve been told, “no,” you may find that you were quite aware of the meta-communication. “No” can mean many things, such as


  • not the way I feel right now
  • not the way I see it
  • this is me, blocking you
  • ask me again, nicer
  • I’m saying ‘no,’ but I really don’t have my heart in it what you propose is frightening
  • I’m uncomfortable with the way things are going


It can also mean, simply, “no.” When you receive a “no” that means only “no” and not a host of other things, you know exactly what it means and it spurs you to action – to respect or to move against. Such an expression unmasks the game playing and discourages its continuation. To have such power, the word must come from somewhere inside where there is stillness.


Without stillness within, our words are often expressed to satisfy a personal want or need. When there is an unstated purpose to the expression — to look good or to be seen in a certain way, for example – the momentum of that, communicates.


In our culture, much of what passes for relationship is a mutual seeking to satisfy personal needs that by their nature cannot be satisfied. Each seeks to use the other and each consents to being used, in exchange for getting some of their own needs met. Yet everyone knows what is going on: using and being used are demeaning and do not feel good. This is momentum that signals the absence of stillness and it communicates itself clearly.


Stillness within, is evident to others. The heart-engaged, reflective peacemaker comes from that stillness within, that brings stillness without. Just as one’s irritation and impatience affect others, so does one’s stillness. In stillness, there is freedom from personal agendas. When these are gone, others are no longer seen as being of use. When we are no longer seen as objects that may prove useful, we notice it. And, we respond to it from love, rather than reacting, from fear.


When stillness moves, without momentum, we communicate, through our expression, profound equality. Such equality carries respect that evokes in others self-respect and attention to deeper values. By seeing more of the whole of another, the other is able to connect with more of their whole as well. This raises others, with no effort on one’s own part, to a higher, values-oriented level of functioning and this leads to better decision-making. [Elements of this are discussed in The Mediation Field Guide, (Barbara Ashley Phillips, 2001), chapters 2 and 4 particularly.] All of this happens by virtue of your manner of being, rather than something you do.


In stillness, a thought comes. You notice, did it come from stillness? If not, you wait before speaking. It is like unripe fruit, which stillness within may test, validate and shape. Then what is spoken is like ripe fruit, at the peak of flavor, gentleness and kindness. What is communicated has substance and often has profound effects. It is as if what is really you, is within the expression.


Stillness is the source of words of power. Words of power then,

  • Come from a still place inside
  • Say exactly what is meant, with kindness
  • Serve no personal agendas and carry no needs seeking satisfaction through another
  • Have a quality of ripeness


There is an authenticity to words of power that reverberates. Inside, each recognizes the truth being expressed, even if not at a conscious level. It is freeing to recognize that you are not responsible for how what you say will be received. It is only your responsibility to express yourself with the deepest integrity of which you are presently capable. The more you do it, the more clear and powerful your words become. And with such practice, your ability to speak words of power, grows.

                        author

Barbara Ashley Phillips

Barbara Phillips has 19 years of widely varied mediation experience, specializing in complex, technical and sensitive matters. A graduate of Yale Law School, Phillips served as an Assistant United States Attorney and practiced primarily federal civil trial law in Oregon and California prior to becoming a mediator. In Phillips' mediations,… MORE >

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