“You’ll never amount to anything. Loser!”
“Why do I always do this?!”
You will always hear people say that words don’t matter.
We learn the old “sticks and stones” routine from a pretty young age.
The truth is that words do matter. I’m not talking about the blatant insults; I’m talking about the small bits of language that we use to color our lives and direct our paths.
The language we use to discuss ourselves, our goals, and our journey need to be positive, and they need to be the types of words that will keep us on our path and drive us.
No matter how many times we’ve recited “sticks and stones may break my bones…” to ourselves, we all know that words carry weight. They can create psychic scars and they can drive our narrative in ways we don’t even realize.
Think about some of the clichés we use every day:
“Same old, same old.”
And even one that I used earlier:
“The good old days.”
These words tell us about where we are and where we’ve been. Today is kind of meh, kind of ordinary. Let’s look back at the past and focus on something we can’t change!
We also color our future with negative language. “I don’t think I can do that.” . . . “That’s not a possibility” . . .
- Are these proactive approaches?
- Constructive approaches?
- Is that the kind of mentality that is going to keep us on the road to reach our goals?
A classic mentioned by Nan S. Russell in her writing is problem versus challenge.
Problems are static and often insurmountable; challenges are things that we are welcome to step up, meet, and transform.
Using positive proactive language like this can literally change the way your mind processes what it takes in. Is something that happened at work a problem or a challenge? If it’s a challenge, then you are literally inviting yourself to step up and meet it, right?
Use proactive language whenever you can.
“The language we use to communicate is like a knife. In the hands of a careful and skilled surgeon, a knife can work to do great good. But in the hands of a careless or ignorant person, a knife can cause great harm. Exactly as it is with our words.”
Poorly chosen words can kill enthusiasm, impact self-esteem, lower expectations, and hold people back. Well-chosen ones can motivate, offer hope, create vision, impact thinking, and alter results. I learned in twenty years in management that my words have power over my thoughts and actions. They also impact and influence people I speak to.
Have you ever heard the story of the two frogs that fell in a pit?
A group of frogs were traveling through the woods. They were all hopping along and enjoying themselves when two of them fell into a deep pit.
The pit was very deep; it was clear in an instant to the frogs on top that the height of the pit was well beyond the average leap of a frog. When the other frogs realized this, they told the two frogs in the pit to give up and that they were as good as dead.”
The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump up out of the pit with all their might. The other frogs kept telling them to stop, that they were as good as dead. Finally, one of the frogs took heed of what the other frogs were saying and gave up. He lay down in a corner and had no more hope of ever getting out.
The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could. Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop tormenting himself. “Go lie down with the other frog and give up!” they shouted at him.
But he jumped even harder… and finally made it out. When he got out, the other frogs stared at him. “Why did you keep jumping? Didn’t you hear us?”
The frog stared at them blankly. He hadn’t heard them—he was deaf. He had thought they were encouraging him the entire time.
That is the power of words. An encouraging word to someone who is down or even to yourself can motivate and lift up. On the other hand, a destructive word can be just what it takes to tell us to give up.
Be careful of what you say—especially to yourself. Always encourage yourself. Encourage those around you; you will benefit from the positivity created through your efforts.