How often do you pay attention to your language? And do you know what impact the words you use have on your life?
Those of you who have read It can’t be done! already have a taste of how disempowering the wrong set of words can be. In this post, I will explore a little more about what we can do to rearrange our language to change our thinking and therefore change our circumstances.
an acquired behaviour pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary
Our choice of words are habitual and just like any habit can be changed with a bit of practice and persistence. Language is amazing. It has the power to uplift, to motivate, to convey meaning and give purpose, but it also has the power to do all of the opposite if left untended.
Compare these two phrases:
“I will try my best”
“I will do my best”
Which one inspires more confidence?
The word “try” implies an attempt and therefore two possible outcomes – success or failure. If you are “trying” your best, you’re not actually doing your best and if that is the case, what is stopping you from doing so? If you want to do your best, just do it, trying is not good enough. Take the implication of a negative outcome out of the equation and you will change your mindset and find that your circumstances changes with it.
Think back to the times when you have been told “don’t be upset”, “don’t let it get to you”, “don’t be angry”. How did those statements make you feel? Did they stop you from being upset or angry? If anything, you probably felt worse, either from trying to suppress your emotions or from feeling invalidated. Well-meaning friends and family often think they are helping by telling you “don’t”. Not a great strategy.
For a little bit of fun, try this exercise:
- Follow this instruction:
Don’t think of a pink elephant!
- What was the first thing that popped into your mind? Were you successful at not thinking of a pink elephant?
The aim of this little exercise is to demonstrate that all the word “don’t” does is programmes the rest of the statement into your mind.
With the many distractions my young children provide, my memory isn’t what it used to be and I seem to have a lot more to remember! Instead of telling myself “don’t forget….”, I have started phrasing my reminder “remember……..” and have been amazed at the improvement in my memory.
Many a parenting book has touched on the use of the word “don’t” when giving children instructions e.g. saying “bottom on the chair” instead of “don’t stand on the chair”. Perhaps we should take this advice and use it in adult conversations too!
The first step in “minding your language” is to be aware of its potential which is what this article hopes to highlight. The next step is to be aware of your own patterns and habits and then to use that awareness to consciously re-phrase or re-frame your words.