Words affect emotions – your own emotions and those of others. Don’t believe me?
Imagine you feel upset. Which words calm you down? “This is KILLING me!” or “Yeah, it’s a little uncomfortable.”
Now, imagine you feel down in the dumps. Which words pick you up? “I’m recharging my batteries,” or “I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck!” See how this works instantly?
Your initial body sensation may be the same, but the words you express change your feelings about it.
However, many times we use language patterns from our peers or culture that are negative or victimy. Since language has so much power, here are eight ways to tweak your words and gain more resilience.
- Amp up the good stuff. Use more dramatic language to escalate your feelings of confidence, happiness, love, and energy. Instead of saying, “My day has been pretty good,” you say, “My day has been AWESOME!” It might feel fake at first. That’s normal. Keep amping up your words for good stuff, and you will feel more enthusiastic and positive.
- Ramp down the bad stuff. Use less dramatic language to deescalate your feelings of fear, anxiety, depression, rejection, and failure. Instead of saying, “I crashed and burned on that test,” you say, “Yeah, it wasn’t as good as it could have been.”
- Use qualifiers to ramp down. Qualifying language are words that soften the blow such as, “Sometimes ”,”A little“, “Once in awhile” ,“Kind of ”. So instead of saying, “I always mess up on tests!”, you would say, “Once in awhile I struggle on tests, “ or “I kind of messed up on that test!” Qualifiers get us out of “black and white” thinking that can escalate negative emotions.
- Use “I-language” to ramp down. This can be a form of qualifying language such as, “It seems to me,””I feel like,””It occurs to me that ,””The way I see it . . “. The reason that “I-language” helps is that it allows flexibility in the paradigm— there’s more than one way to see the problem. It gets us out of the black and white thinking of “my way or the highway.”
- Use time-sensitive words to ramp down. Use words such as, “for a little while,” “temporarily,” “for a sec,””for a minute” as a way to ramp down negative states. Instead of, “I’m going to be waiting FOREVER,” you could say, “I’ll be waiting for a few.” Or, “In a little while it’ll be over.”
- Make it a little deal instead of a big deal. Resilient people know the secret: When dealing with negatives, remember to keep the small things small and make the big things small. How? With our words. Here are some common examples:
- This is tricky vs. This is hard!
- It’s not my favorite vs. I hate this!
- She doesn’t usually. . . vs. She never . . .
- He likes to get his way vs. He is controlling!
- He can be self-centered vs. He is a narcissist
- This is a challenge vs. This is terrible!
- This is a setback vs. This is a disaster
- She can get carried away when she talks vs.
- She is a back-stabbing gossip!
- It’s often or sometimes . . . vs. It’s always . . .
- She’s obviously having a bad day vs. She’s a monster . . .
- I’m in a bit of a tight spot vs. I’m dying here!
When you know how to use your words, you will be more resilient and take negative things in stride. Additionally, when you know how to use your words, you can get a lot more enjoyment out of life that you missed before.
Now, watch what you say. The person you hurt or help could be yourself.