The power of language … how to turn a negative into a positive.
When was the last time you really paid attention to what you are saying? Sometimes the language we use and the way we express ourselves becomes a habit without us even realising. And when our mood is low our communication will often be littered with negative language.
Most of us have experienced feeling drained of our personal energy during a conversation with someone. Next time, pay attention to the language and phrases they’re using and how you’re reacting. Are you getting sucked into the negativity? Are you responding with negative language? How does it make you feel? What’s the impact on the rest of your day? Your week?
Research shows that using negative language blocks the brain’s de-stressing mechanisms, however, positive language can change our brain by strengthening the brain’s frontal lobes. Our brain’s frontal lobes control emotional expression, problem solving, memory, language, judgement and sexual behaviour.
The good news is that by paying attention to how we use language, we can make changes. Positive language is a powerful tool, having the benefit of not only making changes to our emotional well-being but enhancing the way we communicate with others.
A great way to find out the negative language you use is to spend 10 minutes of creative writing each day. Don’t edit as you go, just let the words flow. Set a timer! Once the time is up, go back over what you have written highlighting the negative words. These are the words that you use in your everyday language.
Can’t, won’t, unable, failed, don’t, shouldn’t, won’t, no, no doubt, ought, must
|Negative phrase||Positive phrase|
|I don’t know.||I can find out.|
|No||I wish I could!|
|I/You didn’t …||I will/Please would you …|
|I/You don’t know how to …||I/You can learn how to …|
|I/You must …||I/You prefer …|
Turn a negative into a positive:
Turn a problem into a situation. I have a difficult problem … to I have a difficult situation. A problem seems as though it will always be there and is a heavy responsibility whereas a situation seems temporary and solvable. It has a much lighter feel to it, and it wonʼt cause as much stress.
Turn always and never into often and seldom: Always and never are negative words because they are rarely true and are often sweeping statements. Since they are usually used to criticize, people feel attacked and can become very defensive.
Turn should have to could have: Using the words, should have, creates condemnation and guilt for something that has already been done and cannot be changed, whereas the words, could have, don’t condemn anyone. They let someone know he or she had a choice, and this experience then becomes a lesson for making better choices in the future.
Turn bad into unwise: Using the word, bad, is a judgement of character, and causes resentment whereas the word unwise refers to the natural consequences of someone’s actions, and doesn’t judge their basic character.
Turn faults into differences: using the word faults means you are judging someone’s actions as right or wrong. Using the word, differences, removes the criticism because you are pointing out how you are different, not that one person is right or wrong.
Don’t try to eliminate negative words entirely! Practise mindfulness. Be aware of how language affects all the conversations you have whether with your family, friends or at work. Make changes gradually. Take back the power of positive language.