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  • Claudia Reuter

Words Really Do Matter.

What We Say to Children Can Stick and Direct Their Paths.

On The 43 Percent Podcast, I interview women across industries in an effort to share the more nuanced paths that women's careers often take while navigating family decisions. In each episode I ask guests to share their current professional and personal experience, the path they took to get there, and any advice they would share with younger women.

At this point, I've spoken with women in so many different areas including CEOs, doctors, lawyers, computer engineers, corporate executives and teachers. In many conversations, I've heard a variation of this statement, "My ___ [insert adult authority figure] told me I couldn't be ____, [insert career choice], so I went a different route."

It's striking to me that one comment from an adult authority figure can have such a lasting impact. Not only, do many people listen to and accept the negative advice, but they recall the 'command' twenty or thirty years later. In most of these conversations, I can hear that the guest has realized that, of course, the statement wasn't really true. But somehow it triggered a course of action with results manifesting for years to come.

These conversations are a reminder to me to choose my words really carefully. It's easy to underestimate the impact of words when you are in a position of power. And the reality is, if you're a parent, a boss, or a teacher, you're in a position where people will accept what you say as fact more easily. So if we tell people what they can't do, and they accept that as fact, we not only limit that individual's potential but we limit the world's.

Knowing that the impact of your words can last a lifetime, what would you say? I know I'm going to focus on what Sharon Kan describes as "The world of possibilities". I think my job as a caregiver is to expose my kids to opportunities and then let them make their own choices. I hope the words I choose reflect that goal.

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