Thursday, 11 November 2010

Communication: Words have power

Words have Power
“Words have power” is an expression that many of us have heard. Those who are parents and reading this may be familiar with the pattern of behaviour in which anything relating to “sleep” and children is not mentioned in the same sentence – as this will result in the children waking up and the whole cycle of “trying to get them to sleep” starts over again. My own recent experience of words having power was telling someone that I went for an interview to refresh my interview skills; however I did actually want that job. I heard the next day that I did not get the job. Did my careless choice of words turn an interview that was good practice and one I wanted in to just good practice interview?
In this article we’ll examine the power of words from a Project Management, NLP and Kabbalistic point of view. Skip to the summary at the end if you just want to get the essence of this article.
The Project Management Part

There’s a LOT of information written about communication. How to be good at it, when to do it, whom to communicate with and what happens when communication breaks down. From a Kabbalistic perspective existence is based on Divine “sayings” that are continuously sustaining everything that was, is and will be. If this were to cease then everything that we know of would cease.

However, before we get too deep in to the Kabbalistic viewpoint of communication and speech let’s take a look at the Project Management side of things. Here is an extract from the excellent book by Peter Taylor called “The Lazy Project Manager” that show how to work in the most effective manner with the least effort.

The Lazy Project Manager (Peter Taylor), pp. 54
Communicate as others need you to communicate

This whole book is really about communication, but this part specifically covers communication. And lazy project managers will think very, very carefully about what they need to communicate and how they need to communicate it, and why they are communicating what they are communicating. The general guidance is that 70% of a project manager’s time will be spent in communicating. That’s 70%!

So we can see that from a Project Management point of view, one place that needs most effort (and where potentially most savings of effort can be made) is in communication.

Now let’s look at the Project Management Institute’s take on communication. It provides a definition of communication if that’s not of interest then please skip this next quote.

PMBoK (Project Management Body of Knowledge, 3rd ed, Chapter 10)

“…Communication skills are related to, but are not the same as, project management communications. The art of communications is a broad subject and involves a substantial body of knowledge including:
Sender-Receiver models. Feedback loops and barriers to communication.
Choice of Media. When to communicate in writing versus orally, when to write an informal memo versus a formal report, and when to communicate activities face-to-face versus email. The media chosen for communication activities will depend upon the situation.
Writing style. Active versus passive voice, sentence structure, and word choice.
Presentation techniques. Body language and design of visual aids. Meeting management techniques. Preparing an agenda and dealing with conflict…”

According to this definition communication comes in different forms, that it must be between two things/people and that how the message is conveyed as well as the media of transmission are important.


Let’s take look briefly at another discipline which focuses largely on communication. In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Representational Systems are defined as:

Representational systems (also known as sensory modalities and abbreviated to VAKOG or known as the 4-tuple) is a neuro-linguistic programming model that examines how the human mind processes information. It states that for practical purposes, information is (or can be treated as if) processed through the senses. Thus people say one talks to oneself (the auditory sense) even if no words are emitted, one makes pictures in one's head when thinking or dreaming (the visual sense), and one considers feelings in the body and emotions (known as the kinesthetic sense).

I’m no NLP expert but from what little I’ve read it seems that some people use words related about visual things, auditory things or kinesthetic things. For example “I see what you mean”, “That rings true”, or “I’m finding it hard to grasp what this article is about”.

Kabalistic Part

Having set out that communication is important in project success, defined means of communication and commented (via NLP briefly) on how people want to be communicated to – let’s take a look at how words and letters themselves can affect reality. This is the basic premise in Sefer Yetzirah that an initiate of sufficient practice and ability is able to reach a level of consciousness to be able to manipulate the world around them and do seemingly magical things.

A really good article on this topic can be found here:

by Rachel Evelyne Barenblat
This is an extract from Rachel's Thesis, submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Religion at WILLIAMS COLLEGE, Williamstown, Massachusetts, April 24, 1996

Here is an extract from the end of this article:

The Sefer Yetzirah provides a way for the mystic to strive towards the Divine through the manipulation of Hebrew letters. Despite the fact that letters are the primary tool used to strive towards God, the mystic somehow enters into a nonverbal state of consciousness, in which letters lose their ordinary meaning. In this state of mystical consciousness, the raw power of the letters is released, and the mystic gains access to what is "really real" within the letters, which is their reality as divine emanation.

This book is not simply an explanatory text of the Kabbalistic school of Ma’aseh Bereishit (Workings of Creation), it is in fact a book use for meditation that an initiate can use to reach these levels of consciousness as outlined by Rachel Evelyne Barenblat and Rabbi Kaplan above. It is a grimoire if you will that transforms the initiate in to a person whose words can manipulate reality to create a golem, to create an astral body to explore the Heavenly realms, to turn lead in to gold and to perform all manner of seemingly magical things.


Project Managers spend a lot of their time on communication hence they - if they’re good PMs - choose how, when and in particular what to communicate very carefully. NLP shows us that when it comes to the how – if you’re not communicating using the words that they relate to then some or all of the message will be lost. Sefer Yetzirah comes along and shows how letters and words themselves are vehicles of Divine energy that shape reality. An initiate of sufficient ability and practice can use this to reshape reality.

So when communicating with others, it pays not only to be mindful of speaking in words that they relate to. But to also be mindful that those same words could be shaping your and their reality with unintended results due to a poor choice of words. I’ll leave you with a story of the Baal Shem Tov (see: that illustrates this point:

In one story, a quarrel erupted between two local men in the Baal Shem Tov's synagogue. In a fit of anger, one of them shouted, "I will tear you to pieces like a fish." The Baal Shem Tov instructed his students, who had all witnessed the altercation, to stand near him and close their eyes. Suddenly, the students shouted in terror, as they were shown a vision of the man at whom the non-serious threat was directed being dismembered. Thus, the Besht taught his student the powerful effect of words that, at times, can only be perceived in higher realms
This means that letters (and their combination in words) can directly influence the world around us. A really good book on this topic that I would recommend to anyone with a basic knowledge of Kabbalah and wants to delve a little deeper is Sefer Yetzirah, see Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s commentary and translation: