Watch your Language!

I remember being a kid and probably being a little sassy from time to time, yes, I know, for those of you who know me, so hard to believe!   What I remember most about this was being told to “watch my language” or more precisely, in the words of my Dad “mind your P’s and Q’s”.  I still laugh when I think of that.  What does that even mean?  I’m guessing that I was crossing some sort of line between what was acceptable to say vs. what was not.

So what does this have to do with you and why am I even bothering to tell you?

Language and the words we choose is fascinating to me.  As I focus more and more of my coaching on change and working with mindset, I can’t help noticing myself eavesdropping on conversations and what words people use when they describe a situation, person or perhaps themselves.

Take the work environment for instance. You may hear someone describe working with another team or individual as a “real battle”.  What could be different if you substituted “real battle” with “real adventure”?  The first thing that jumps to mind is it becomes more playful, still a challenge perhaps but more of a “we’re in it together” feeling than a confrontational feel.  Funny how changing just one word can completely shift what meaning we put on a difficult situation.What about when you are describing an acquaintance, friend or relative in your life where you are having a difficult time connecting with them.  Notice how you describe that person to others.  Do you use words like “she’s so difficult” or “he is stubborn” – what does that do for you?  I’m guessing that it doesn’t foster warm and fuzzy feelings for that person.  What shift could you make in your language to shift the way you think about someone.  What if instead of being “difficult” she was actually strong in her convictions or instead of him being “stubborn” he was passionate about his point of view?

Probably most interesting to me and what I work on with clients is the language they use when it comes to themselves.  What is your self-talk like?  Is it kind and compassionate or are you always putting yourself down?  When we start to pay attention to how we talk about ourselves to others and maybe more importantly, how we talk to ourselves in our heads it is so powerful.  Changing negative self-talk is a big first step to moving ahead to a more positive outlook.  Easier said than done you may think and I won’t argue there, however, I would definitely say that, with practice you can change your negative self-talk to positive.  How?  Step one is to simply notice. Yep, just notice what you are thinking in your head or how you describe yourself to others.  You may not notice until a day after you have thought or said something.  That’s okay.  When you first start consciously noticing you may not recognize things in the moment.  However, gradually you will find over time that the noticing gets to be in the moment and that’s when a shift can occur.

This also applies to how you describe your acquaintance, friend, relative, co-worker or team.  When you are in the moment, you now have a choice as to the language you are going to use to describe them or yourself.

Here’s my challenge for you.  Pick one situation from the examples I provided where you would like to change the relationship for the better.  Really pay attention to what words you are using to describe the person, team or yourself. Notice. Then start thinking of how you would like to feel about the person, team or yourself and start replacing the current word you use to describe them or yourself with a different, more positive word.  See if that changes anything for you…