Watch Your Language!

The words we use with ourselves and others are so important! Words create our experience in so many ways. They shape how we expect things will turn out. They influence whether or not we are able to get the best out of our children or staff. And our words contain many hidden beliefs and judgments.

Let’s have a look at a few that I see when working with clients in my coaching practice.

1) YOU and I: Have you ever noticed how many people depersonalise their own thoughts and actions by using the second person. Here’s an example: ‘You always eat and drink too much when you go to a conference’. What really is meant is, ‘I always eat and drink too much when I go to a conference’. Lesson – Own your statement!

2) HOPE, TRY and AM: Look at the following sentences. ‘I hope I can stick to my exercise programme’. ‘I will try to stick to my exercise programme’. ‘I am sticking to my exercise programme’. Which one has the greatest sense of commitment and inevitability? Lesson – Use the words that reduce doubt or procrastination and create certainty!

3) SHOULD vs. COULD: How often do we subtly pass judgement and make ourselves and others wrong for the choices made by using the word ‘should’? e.g. ‘You should save more’ or ‘I should call mum more often’. Now change it to ‘could’ and see how we have free choice to do it or not. Then we are not acting out of a sense of obligation or duty because that’s what I should do if I were a really good person. We are making it a conscious choice to do it or not. Lesson – Take out the judgement, just do it or don’t!

4) BUT vs. AND: ‘But’ is one of the smallest words, yet its power to de-motivate is enormous. When we use ‘but’, we make our emphasis on the negative aspect of the issue. Just imagine your child coming home with a maths result of 95%. How do you think they would feel when you say,’ That’s great, but what about that lousy English mark’? No-one remembers the part of the sentence placed in front of the ‘but’, they only hear the negativity. Rephrase it to ‘That’s great, and I reckon you could get that mark in English as well’. Now it has a motivating element. Lesson – Put your buts behind you!

Other obvious word patterns that you could use are:
Change ‘I can’t do it’ to ‘I can do that’.
Change ‘I don’t know how’ to ‘I can learn that’.
So ‘Watch your Language’!
It’s a wonderful life!

By Brian Fitzpatrick


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