The Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary defines the ripple effect as a spreading, pervasive, and usually unintentional effect or influence.
We know the analogy of dropping a stone in a lake and watch the ripples spread out. One small act or action has an effect on something, someone else and onwards. Or if you are old enough, you might remember the Faberge commercial (and so on and so on…)?
This struck me recently as a former colleague came up to me and stated “Cindy, you said something a few years ago that really stuck with me and changed my approach to my career.” She went on to tell me what I had said to her – and I had no recollection of the conversation or the so-called advice I had given her. But my words had an impact on her and luckily, in this case it was a positive impact.
How many times might I have said something flippant or dismissive that had a negative impact on someone and that impact created an unintended negative ripple effect? And I had no idea.
Whether you are a leader in an organization, a team member, a member of your community, an auntie, a father, a friend…it does not matter…each one of us have an impact, a ripple effect of our words or actions.
My struggle is that I may have a positive intention in my actions or words, but the impact may be quite different. So how do I not walk on egg shells, worrying about every little thing I do or say? I do have some control over this aspect – I’ve seen this quote show up in my news feeds a few times in the last few months (hmm – universe might be trying to tell me something?):
Before you speak, let your words pass through these gates:
“Is it true?”
“Is it necessary?”
“Is it kind?”
Consider the dictionary definition again a spreading, pervasive, and usually unintentional effect or influence. Usually unintentional – whoa!
So how can I be more intentional in the potential effect? I have a choice. I have a choice to pause before I speak, to set a positive intention in whatever small, brief interaction I am having, to ask myself “Is this true, necessary and most important of all, kind?”
And I’m human, I will mess up. But if I can pause for a second most of the time, my deep hope is that the ripple effect of my words and actions will spread kindness and love.
“Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.” ~ Dalai Lama