Watch Your Language!

Have you ever noticed when people ask you how you’re doing, you will almost invariably answer based on the emotional state you’re currently in? For example, if you feel as if you’re just barely hanging on or are feeling frustrated, you might answer with something like, “I’m hanging in there,” or “I’m all right, I guess.” Or, if things are going exceptionally well, you might fire back with, “I’m doing incredibly well!”

Those answers – and more specifically, the language of those answers – can serve to keep you right where you are. But what if I told you that you can change your feelings and emotions, and literally set the course for an outstanding day simply by changing your language? Curious? Good, let’s dig in!

“Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the most powerful forces in your life is the language you use on a consistent basis. But I’m not only talking about the words you use when communicating with the people around you; that is certainly very important. I’m also talking about your internal language.

I believe that the quality of your life is consistent with the quality of the language, both internal and external, that you use on a repeated basis.

You see, when we describe an event or experience, the words become the experience. What does that mean? Think about this for a minute. I knew a guy who would consistently describe the events in his life as “frustrating.” I’d ask him how his day was, and he’d respond with, “It was so frustrating at work today!”

So, of course, the predominant emotion he experienced was frustration. And that speaks directly to the overall quality of his life. I can tell you he experiences frustration on a regular basis.

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” – George Orwell

I have a very close friend who, whenever I ask him how he’s doing, will always respond with a huge smile and say, “Perfect and improving. Thank you for asking!” What do you think he gets to experience consistently in his emotions? You get the idea.

How might your language impact you at work? With your teams? In regard to your projects? If you find yourself habitually talking about the challenges, the frustrations, the disappointments, the annoyances, etc. then that is what you’re going to experience.

If you walk in the door and ask yourself something like, “What kind of mess am I going to find today?” or say to yourself, “This project really irritates me!” then you can rest assured that you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for.

Why not set a new standard for yourself and your teams?

When we change our language, we engage our brains in a whole new way, sending a different message to it that suggests we look for what we’re focused on. I won’t go into the whole neuroscience behind this mechanism and how it works. What you need to know is this; wherever focus goes, energy flows. Meaning, if you’re telling your brain that you’re frustrated, angry, disappointed, happy, ecstatic, or excited, then it will filter all incoming information to seek those things; and that will largely determine the quality of your experience for that day.

I’m not discounting the fact that in every day, there are opportunities for challenges or unwanted surprises, but if you’re already in a resourceful and happy emotional state, think about how much more effectively you’ll handle them!

When you take that to the next level, and begin using more effective language with your teams, you also program them unconsciously to seek what you’re suggesting. For example, in a team meeting to review project status, you might be tempted to point out a problem and say something to the effect of, “We’ve got a problem here. And it’s going to create some turmoil until we get it figured out.” Think about how that impacts your team.

“Our language is the reflection of ourselves.” – Cesar Chavez

First, it creates a sense of uncertainty in them. What’s wrong? Is it my fault? Why does this always happen? Etc. When people are in a state of uncertainty, it can create feelings of fear and anxiety, which will severely hamper efforts to resolve the issue. People will focus on the problem as opposed to the solution, and may find themselves in a reactionary mode rather than a responsive one.

What if instead, you say, “Well, we have an unanticipated surprise! And I have confidence that this team has exactly what we need to resolve it.” I’m not just playing with words here. You must understand that words are programming for our brains. It sends very specific signals on what to focus on, thereby setting up our response. Think about the difference in language and how it impacts you and the people around you.

Like anything else, it takes practice to shift your language. But, I promise you that when you do, the results are instantaneous and significant. It’s not about “positive thinking.” It’s about being resourceful and using intelligent language that focuses you and your teams on the best possible outcome, rather than the problem itself.

And how knows? You just might find yourself answering the question, “How are you?” with, “Perfect and improving! Thank you for asking!”


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