Words are human, substantially human. They link our thoughts to reality and to other thoughts. Thanks to words, others know what we are thinking or what we want to say. Depending on how skilful we are with words, we succeed or fail in reaching others, obtaining personal or collective benefits, and building the future.
No matter how knowledgeable they are, no matter how intelligent they are, people who do not express themselves very well are at a disadvantage. Words are effectiveness.
Our thoughts are made up of words. As we progress in the art of the word, we learn to think better, we acquire mental skills that we did not have previously because the brain develops with language, and if we train and teach the word, the brain increases its muscle power.
Our brain deals with images, sensations, all kinds of memories and an endless array of words. Our language brings all that together. The word and the action are what best reveal what we are and what we want to be. People who do not use words well act as if they have had their strongest member amputated.Everything is very closely connected, of course, but speaking is not writing, reading is not writing, reading is not speaking. Good readers will express themselves better than people who don’t read because, among other things, they have more to give, they have much more fruit on their interior tree. However, if readers do not practice their writing, they will never know how to write. There are people who speak very well but write very poorly because the road to becoming a great writer is the road of discipline. When I write, I often think of the professional athlete who trains tirelessly to give his best in the match. Speaking, writing, reading and even listening are so related to this subject, and require both training and discipline.
The course I teach on words as part of the IE IMBA -The value of the word- is based mainly on becoming aware of one fact: the transcendence of words. If we know that words are essential in our lives, that using words as fluently as possible will help us and open doors, then that knowledge is the best place to begin: to cultivate them, work on them and progress in their art as far as possible.
How can that be achieved? It is easy to explain but it takes a long time, although I am sure that the first steps are the most enjoyable and that when one knows only a little about the subject, it is easier to progress in it.
One needs to train one’s interior if one’s exterior is to shine. This includes academic training, but also and more importantly here, humanistic training. You have to read a lot and read a wide variety of genres; you have to be interested in art, in ideas, in the people who have known how to think and express themselves well throughout history. You have to be as educated as possible. Cicero said all orators had the duty to know their philosophy. Today, I think that means having knowledge about humanities and being welleducated.
The concept of word includes every modality, every modern modality, and on my course I focus on e-mail, on the telephone, on conversations, on everyday and not-so-everyday media, how to write an article or plan a book. The novelty of my course is that it is global: I teach my students to speak better, to write better, to listen better and to do so in the most common contexts of today’s world.
On that basis, the aim is to practice in class and at home. Reading good books, good magazines. Travelling, enriching ourselves by looking for interesting people who have something to offer. Speaking in public whenever we can and taking part in any conversation, wanting to do it well, not being afraid and moving forward one step at a time on a daily basis. Fear is lost by overcoming it, in other words, daring to gradually do what we never dared to do simply because we were afraid. Taking one step forward.
When we get used to defending our ideas, giving our opinion, learning to accept our mistakes -because we all make them- we go beyond ourselves. History has shown the value and power of the word. The word has conquered peoples and countries, the word helped human beings to earn the admiration of the world. With the word, human beings have laid out all the values and talents they have; we only want a better tool for communicating, so that the treasure inside, everything we can give, shines even stronger. For anyone who knows how to look after it and use it, the word reaps rewards on a social, professional and personal level. It is generous to those who use it out of respect, in a spirit of self-betterment and humanity. The word can be a brilliant, spirited steed.
By Eduardo Martínez-Rico, Professor at IE Business School, first published at IDEAS, the IE Alumni Magazine.