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The Words We Use Have Power

The Words We Use Have Power

Wordle - LearningOver the past several months I have become more aware of the language, the words, I use in everyday conversations. Not only with other people but also my own inner conversations, the conversations we have with ourselves. I’m sure you know what I mean, it’s that little voice that pops up in your head every once in a while that tells you that maybe things aren’t going so well as you thought, or asks why you think you can do this? Our conversations with others can also lead to words that reflect those inner voices coming out of our mouths.

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” ― Rudyard Kipling

There are two things going on here and they are very much connected. They have a lot to do with a major theme that I have been writing about over the past year or so, and that is self-awareness.

This consciousness of the words we use has been brought to my awareness by several coaches with whom I have worked over the past few years. They have consistently caught me, and called me, on words or phrases I was using. I have come to recognize that they were self-defence mechanisms that were providing a buffer for the possible failure of my coaching practice. My personal work on this has had a side effect that I now see clearly when others, specifically my own clients, use it.

“I like good strong words that mean something…” ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

The language we use very much reflects not only what we believe in, but how we are feeling about those beliefs. For example, we may believe that we are being successful in a given endeavour, which we believe in what we are doing, but if our words don’t reflect that, then our belief will start to erode.  Just as Richard Boyatzis talks about how Emotional Contagion has the effect of either creating positive or negative emotions in those around us, so can words have similar effect. A personal example is my use of the phrase “you never know what could (or will) happen” as in the context of making a business connection. This is a negative way of positioning a viewpoint that basically is designed to protect from a negative outcome. The more positive phrase would be to say “this may create lots of opportunities” or “this will lead to significant opportunities”. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying “I think” versus “I know”. I realize that this may seem silly to some but even as we say those two words our intonation and tone reflects a difference in attitude. Say it a few times out loud and listen to what it sounds like. When you say “I think” does your voice rise as if there is a question mark at the end? When you say “I know” does your voice drop and does it have more power to it?

“Because even the smallest of words can be the ones to hurt you, or save you.” ― Natsuki Takaya

As I was working with a client a few days ago, she said “I think I can… “. I stopped her and asked, “Do you think, or do you know?” It’s at such moments that you recognize what a difference just changing two words can make, what message it sends to our subconscious, how it can change how we feel about ourselves, how words can have po



John Whitehead, coaches’ individuals and organizations in becoming more effective by helping them improve their interpersonal communications, emotional intelligence and resiliency.

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