Thinking about your words…

I’ve been doing my hypnotherapy course now for just over a month and despite having to give up my weekend and the intense volume of work involved both practical and written I am finding it truly stimulating. It’s a fascinating subject that deals a lot more with neuroscience and psychology than I anticipated. It’s an opportunity to have interesting discussions and debates with people from a range of backgrounds which are inspirational.

A few weeks ago we were focusing on goal setting, now as a coach, this is obviously in my wheelhouse and during the practical, I was able to confidently guide my partner through the discussion around their goals questioning and addressing what was said until they were able to narrow down their goal and map out the steps to achievement. Then it was my turn, now I regularly set myself goals and I clearly know what my current 6-month goal is, however knowing this unit was coming up I’d deliberately not set my steps to have the opportunity to do so with feedback from someone else.

I have not had a coach myself for a few months and so I was really looking forward to being able to bounce my ideas off someone and get into the nitty-gritty of it. This was an observed practical and so when we’d all had our turn our advisor gathered us all back together to give us some feedback on what she had generally noted overall. The theme of her feedback was around how we all spoke about goals, our hopes etc. everyone of us had fallen into the trap of speaking in generalities and with a lack of purpose. Now, this is what I found fascinating. As a coach I’d noted in my partner that they had used words like, ‘try’, ‘might’, ‘I think’ and I’d addressed this with them but I’d not noticed myself fall into the same pattern. I’m so used to having an internal dialogue with myself around my goals where I am very confident and forthright, I’d not realized that when talking to others about them I was shying away from using that positive vocabulary in order to not feel too arrogant or pushy.

This led to an interesting discussion around the way we use language and how we perceive it. When coaching I encourage people to talk about themselves and their goals/dreams/desires in positive terms; I will achieve… by …, I can… I do this to promote a positive self-image and help shape a clients outlook on life, it helps to predefine our behaviour; by saying I will you are far more likely to do that actual thing.

There are many benefits to using positive language. These include conveying affirmative messages (what to do versus what not to do), helping to instil a positive mindset, and improving our overall well-being.

The language we use is shaped and shapes our cognition and thoughts. Language either positive or negative defines the relationship we have both with ourselves and with those we interact with and can often influence our outcomes. Positive language is informative, proactive, and helpful and will therefore help us to have an optimistic view of ourselves and our future outcomes.

Positive LanguageNegative Language
InformsUninformative
Provides choice and alternative pathsDoesn’t provide alternatives
Helpful, reassuring, supportive, kind, empatheticCan sound like blaming, shaming, or judging
Promotes affirmative actionPassive
EncouragingRestrictive/limiting
ProactiveReactive

Benefits of using positive language

For your wellbeing

Positive language can help to improve your self-perception and re-write your narrative. Our language impacts our thoughts, and our thoughts impact our emotions, a simple switch from negative or neutral language to positive language can do tremendous change for our mood and overall well-being. Negative language reflects a negative attitude and mood, whereas positive language communicates a supportive, confident, and cheerful attitude.

NegativePositive
I hate that I feel this wayThis feeling will pass and I control my own feelings.
I’m terrible at thisI am just learning I will improve.
I made a huge mistakeWhat can I learn to this?/How can I fix it?
I’m not stressedI’m making sure I take time out to relax and refocus

Inspiring others

Using positive language in your everyday communication can inspire others around you to think positively and work hard to achieve their goals, too. Positive language gives you a leadership role in your environment, and this type of personality becomes an inspiring role model for the people around you. When you communicate in a positive, uplifting, affirmative language, you not only create a friendly atmosphere and set the bright mood, you also keep people motivated and excited to help.

NegativePositive
I’m not bad/I’m doing okI’m doing good/Things are getting better because…
I can’t complainThings are going really well
Don’t give upYou’re doing an amazing job, keep going

In the workplace

Positive language at the workplace can have immense benefits on the relationship quality between colleagues, the company’s mission, team effectiveness, and the connection between employers and employees.

NegativePositive
I’m not doing the best I canI will do more.
I have so much left to doI’ve got more to do but I’ve made really good progress.
I don’t know how to do…Let me find out how I do…
The results I’ve accomplished are not bad.I’ve accomplished some good/great results.

In family dynamics

By using positive language, you are modelling positive behaviour to your children. Using instructions like “Stop doing that…”, “You can’t do this…”, “This is not how it’s done…”, etc. leads children to feel bad and defensive, get frustrated, confused, and lose the freedom–and curiosity–to explore this world in their own way. Positive language, on the other hand, encourages children to take responsibility for their actions, make appropriate choices on their own and boost their self-esteem. It allows children to focus and learn from the positive behaviors instead of focusing on negative ones.

NegativePositive
Don’t be so rough!Be gentle!
You can’t have desert until you’ve finished dinnerOnce you finish dinner you can have desert
Sorry I’ve been distantThank you for understanding
This is to complicatedLet’s tackle this in a different way

Implementing positive language

This can be really hard for us as just like me you don’t realise you’re doing it. There are a few things you can do.

  1. Create a positive word wheel to describe yourself (see Instagram for my version on this).
  2. Reword phrases that contain negative language  e.g. don’t, try, might, maybe, won’t, stop.
  3. When discussing with someone about something that can’t be done, don’t apologise and also offer a solution.
  4. Keep an attitude of gratitude and notice the small things even in unpleasant situations. When faced with negative feedback or feeling stuck, search for an opportunity to grow. This will help you maintain a bright, positive tone and outlook.
  5. Keep your body language positive. Smile when you are talking and maintain an open body posture. When you are feeling stressed, do some breathing exercises to calm yourself down, try to keep your body relaxed, and speak slowly (otherwise, your interlocutor will feel stressed and anxious as well).

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