Monday, Sep 10 2012

The Power of Language

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Over the past year I’ve been spending quite a bit a time in various courses and seminars on how to grow and run a business.  Of all the insightful and interesting things these hours of learning have covered, one of the most impactful “nuggets” I took away was the incredible power of language, the words we use in our day to day lives, both professionally and personally, and the direct correlation that language has on the quality of our lives. Here are 4 effective guidelines to consider:
  1. Accurately describe your feelings: Use words that accurately describe instead of “go to” words that create feelings of fear/disempowerment. When describing a situation or expressing how you feel, use words that describe how you really feel – not worse. For example, the other day my 9 year old daughter told me she was feeling scared about starting the 4th grade. I asked her, “Are you really scared, or are you a little nervous and excited because it’s new, and you don’t know what to expect?” After thinking for a minute she responded, “Actually I’m excited and a little nervous, but you’re right I’m not really scared.” By using the appropriate descriptor, my daughter had the power to change her experience of the situation and you can too.
  2. Avoid general and vague terms. Be specific and clear about the situation: Have you ever been overly dramatic? I know I have. Overly dramatic verbiage typically makes things feel or seem worse than they actually are. Describing things as they really are allows us the clarity to deal with the situation at hand for what it is. When describing events or feelings, avoid using words like always, never, and everyone or devastating and fatal.  As my friend Gene McNaughton would say, “Really? It always happens? Everyone? Really? Who specifically? When? Be specific and ask yourself, “How often?”
  3. Ask better quality questions: The questions we ask ourselves on a daily basis, consciously & unconsciously, (aloud or in our heads) determine the quality of our experiences, relationships, and lives. As Tony Robbins states, “The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the quality of the questions you ask of yourself.”  Ask better questions, have a better quality of life.
  4. Re-frame problems as questions rather than statements of fact: Re-framing your problems as questions, rather than as statements of fact, has extraordinary power. According to Keith Cunningham, when we re-frame a problem as a question, our brains will automatically begin searching for the answer. For instance instead of stating, “I can’t find any good developers for my project”, try asking, “How can I ensure that I secure the best developers for my project?” Keith’s contends that by stating a problem as a question, our brains automatically start looking for the answers to the question instead of problems as fact with no solution.
It’s amazing when you think about how unconscious most of us are about the words we use in our daily interactions with others and with ourselves. I encourage you to start actively thinking about what minor modifications you can make in your own vernacular that would incrementally or even outrageously change the quality of your conversations, and ultimately the quality of your life.