People Skills        < Previous


The Words You Choose:

A Barrel and a Thimble



Today's snack: get a thimble from a sewing kit, and drink fruit juice from it

along with a cereal mix






Thimble (clean and dry!)

Biggest trash can or barrel you can find

Print out this page



"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me." That old saying is not really true.


The words you choose when you speak to other people are really, really important. They can hurt, or they can help. You should do some thinking about why you choose the words you do, and what happens when you (1) are careful with the words you say, or (2) just spout off the first thing that comes to your mind.


They say the average young person in an American school today has a vocabulary of up to 50,000 words. If so, there is NO EXCUSE for calling anyone a bad name or using curse words to describe how you feel. You have tens of thousands of words to draw from, and they all have a clear, precise meaning.


Learn to think of the words that you know as being available to you in a big storage BARREL. There are thousands in there for you to choose from. You want to be adding to your barrel of vocabulary words all the time. The more words you know, the smarter you'll sound, and the more precise your communication will be.


But there's a lot of judgment involved with choosing the right words to say at any given time. And that judgment usually comes with experience and practice. It's not unusual for young people to mess up and say the wrong things at the wrong times. We all do it! But with understanding, and practice, you'll get to the point where your word choice will be pretty skilled.


Usually, with your family, friends, or in school, when you are talking about something that does not make you upset or is not controversial and could not embarrass or anger anyone else, it's a good idea to use as many words as you can without getting too self-conscious of the words that you choose to use. A big vocabulary is a matter of pride.


But when it comes time to speak in times of trouble or tension - especially when you're upset or in conflict with someone - it's time to become very, very careful with the words you choose to use. At times like that, try to discipline your mind to only draw from a tiny THIMBLE full of words to make your point, so that you don't end up using "fighting words" that will only make the other person feel worse and turn what should just be a disagreement into a full-fledged argument or worse.


Let's pretend that in the big barrel we've brought in for this activity, there are thousands of words that you can use during your everyday life and in school. Now here is a list of words that you are supposed to cut out as small as you can, and then if you think it's a word that would be helpful to use during a conflict or emotional discussion, crinkle it up and put it into your thimble. If it's a word that would NOT be a good idea to use at such a time, crinkle it up and throw it away! Then, when you get the words you believe you can use constructively while in a fight, go ahead and put each one into a sentence, to show how you can put your smart word choice to better use!






























You can probably think of many more words, but not THAT many will fit in a thimble! So good luck getting skilled at choosing the right words, and keep adding positive new words to that big barrel of yours all the time!


By Susan Darst Williams People Skills 03 2008




People Skills        < Previous, All Rights Reserved.