How the use of everyday negative and positive language can affect our personal and professional lives in powerful ways.
The use of negative language has cropped up in several coaching conversations this month, so I thought I would share with you some insight into how your language might be holding you back, how to “flip it” to get more positive results, and how to reverse the negativity downward spiral.
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
Truly wise words. What Mr Ford’s so eloquently talking about is the idea of a mindset that becomes a self-fulling prophecy and emphasises how much attitude determines success or failure. Basically saying that if you really believe you can accomplish your goal chances are you will succeed. Alternatively, if you head into a situation, work project, challenge or obstacle and believe you will fail, chances are you will do that too.
This is one of the underlying principles in coaching, helping people to turn their beliefs from I can’t into I can. You may have heard the phrase “we are what we think” and it’s one we should all remember, as changing our thoughts, changes the outcomes in our lives. So in shifting our language patterns from negative to positives ones we are actively instigating positive results.
What are negative language patterns?
There is a process to how our thoughts become reality. We start by having thoughts, we then naturally start to articulate those thoughts, to ourselves and to others.
Those words, when repeated, start to become language patterns. When we use negative language patterns, we become less motivated to take action to make changes in our lives or to pick ourselves up and try again when something doesn’t work out.
This inevitably results in us failing to take action, which brings about more negative thoughts and the negative language patterns are reinforced. It is a slippery slope of ever-decreasing motivation.
When working with people, I can spot these negative language patterns. For example, someone might repeatedly make comments like…
- “I don’t have enough time”
- “I can’t keep up”
- “there aren’t enough hours in the day”
That shows me that they have developed a negative language pattern around time. Vocalising that they haven’t got enough time to complete their tasks, thus in effect, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. My job as a personal development coach is to help them turn their language into positive statements; I call this ‘flip-it’.
What do I mean by this? It’s all about the choice of language, so rather than saying “I don’t have enough time” say “what task can I delegate, so that I can do this“. When someone asks how you are answer with “I’m good“, rather than “not bad“. When you make a mistake, rather than beating yourself up with words like “how could I have been so stuid” say “what have I learned from this“.
When it comes to time we should remember, we are in control of how much we do. Cut it back, or pile it on, as you wish. You ultimately have the power over how you delegate and use your time. (I’ll do a more in-depth post on time in the future).
Why is “Flipping the negative” so important?
The big problem with negative language patterns is that it creates a rut. People can become stuck and are usually totally unaware that they are using negative language. Flipping the negative statements into positive ones, in turn makes our thoughts more positive, a reversal of the above process. Learning to speak positively can be truly transformational for people.
Negative language patterns often come from our past experiences. Our language reinforces, and often exaggerates, our memories of how things went wrong in the past. These memories influence what we think and say and, in turn, our actions. And so the cycle continues.
A common negative word that I hear is need. “I need to change”; “I need to work on that”; “I need help with that”. Need implies we have no choice and when we feel we have no choice, we create a mutiny, even when it is against ourselves. A much more positive and motivating word is want; “I want to change”; “I want to work on that”; “I want help”.
Negative language patterns can also be detrimental to our relationships. Consider our overuse of the word always. “You are always late”; “You always do that” and “You always forget”. In reality, is it always? Is it true? Most likely not, and the use of these generalisations are effectively making the other party out to be a bad person. (A resounding cheer of solidarity from other halves everywhere aside) A better approach would be to switch always for sometimes. This opens the door for acceptance and forgiveness.
How to “flip” your language
Our subconscious minds are powerful. Changing our language taps into that power. You need to become more aware of how you are using language and practice speaking more positively.
Do you have a tendency to use negative language? Listen to yourself and try to spot the negative language you use?
Here are some common words to look out for with examples of how they might be used and how you can turn them around. How many do you use without realising it? Leave a comment below and let me know which negative words you’d like to try “flipping” to a positive.
Language is a powerful tool. Whether you communicate verbally, or in written form, the language you use affects how the message is perceived. Using positive language can help to reduce conflict, improve communication, increase optimism in yourself and others and positively affect your personal and professional life.
If you want to learn more about changing negative language, or you want to develop your leadership team to employ more positive language for greater productivity visit More than Motivation for more information.