Language is incredibly important to us and can directly affect the way you feel and operate in the world. If you think about it, language is the architecture of our thoughts, our feelings, how we communicate, our dreams and aspirations and therefore we need to make sure we use it in a way that is useful.
When considering language, it’s interesting to look at the words that people select to communicate with and how that reflects on them, not only in how they feel but how they are received by others. What do you say to yourself? Are you kind and supportive or like many are you hard on yourself? What kind of things do you find yourself saying to others?
A brilliant example of the power of language is a study that was carried out by Professor Thomas Weiss. His team recognised that if certain words were used that suggested painful sensations such as ‘excruciating’ or ‘cramp’, they would trigger a response in the pain processing areas of the brain. Based on this information, imagine you are referred to a pain specialist. When you visit them, you park in the pain car park, go to the pain reception, wait in the pain waiting room – you get the picture. By the time you see the specialist the word pain has been reinforced so many times that your brain is going to be constantly sparking up the pain processing areas which won’t be good for you.
Imagine how many times you have asked someone how much something hurts, or how anxious they feel, this language is just going to be reinforcing the problem. In order to answer they will be are checking in with themselves, it’s a bit like dipping their toe into hurt or anxious before they report back. Instead try switching your question around and ask them how comfortable they are or how calm they feel – this will stop them from adding to any discomfort they are already experiencing.
By using language in this way, you are not ignoring the issue, you are still going to get an answer that will tell you where the other person is but just in a way that does not reinforce the problem.
Taking this lesson on board, think about what words you could change to start you moving forwards in different areas of your life. Look at what you are saying to yourself as well as to others and identify some alternatives that you could use and try them out for size. Notice how different things feel and how differently you are received with a few simple changes.
Think of moving to the position of the optimist, the glass half full rather than half empty and see how much better things appear and feel. And next time someone asks you how you are, avoid the ‘not bad’ and instead answer something that is going to make you feel great.