Watch Your Language!

Language has a powerful effect on the way that out brain perceives the world. The ways in which we talk about our world actually shape the ways in which we experience it.
For example, when you say ‘I’m stressed!’, you will actually feel stressed, and when you say, ‘I’ll never be able to do this’ or ‘this problem is going to kill me’, you will find yourself feeling discouraged, listless or attacked.
When faced with challenging situations, always use language that opens possibilities rather than closes them. Use words that suggest that you have control over something rather than no control. Employ language that focuses on challenges rather than setbacks.
Here are examples of good language habits (try guessing what each sentence would sound like if you used bad language habits!):

  1. Instead of ‘this project will kill me’….. say ‘this project is one heck of a challenge’.
  2. Instead of ‘I can’t work with this person’……… say ‘I need to figure out how to best collaborate with this person’.
  3. Instead of ‘I’m stressed out’ …… say ‘my plate is pretty full right now’
  4. Instead of ‘my kids are uselss’……. say ‘the kids need a lot more coaching on how to do the laundry properly’.
  5. Instead of ‘no one appreciates what our team does’…… say ‘we need to get better at communication the value that we bring’, or ‘some folks don’t fully appreciate what we do’.
 Discussion Questions
  1. Describe three personal examples where your use of language drains you of energy or makes you feel discouraged or trapped.
  2. In your team or work unit, what three language patterns do you share that support energy, enthusiasm or a ‘can do’ attitude?
  3. In your team or work unit, what language patterns have you developed that have a negative effect on your experience of the world, work, clients or each other?
  4. Try this experiment: for one full working day, support each other in changing your language patterns to ones that support resilience and optimism. Then review together what this experience had taught you and how you would like ot use what you learn going forward.

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