The Power of Your Words

The Words We Use

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. – Proverbs 18:21

“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care, for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or evil.” – Siddhartha Gotoma or Buddha (563-483 B.C.)

As a young man growing up I remember being taught the phrase “sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you” I’m sure there were good intentions behind it at the time. But, today I realise that words can be just as damaging as “sticks and stones”, in fact, words can do more damage emotionally than “sticks and stones” can do physically.

We See What We Say

Specific words affect our mental pictures, and can be a powerful programming factor in our lives later on. As adults, we may continue to use words in our vocabulary that dis-empower and weaken us and those around us emotionally.

I remember back as a young teenager, how my dad would patiently explain to me all the things I should pay attention to while learning to drive. He would tell me how I should change the gears, and I should slowly release the clutch while giving some petrol by pushing down on the accelerator.

Like many people learning to drive, it was a challenge for me to do everything right, I was so focused on not messing up, that I would continuously say to myself, “Mark, you better not mess-up, you better not forget what you’ve been taught” guess what? The moment I put the car in gear and released the clutch, the car would jump forward and die. This happened more times than I can remember.

You see, the mind has a very difficult time processing a negative image. Some people (like me) who rely on internal pictures cannot see negative at all. So, in order for me to process the command “…better NOT mess up” or “…better NOT forget…” my brain had to first imagine “messing up and forgetting” and then try and tell the brain NOT to do what it just imagined.

Pictures Within the Mind

That’s why people who smoke struggle with the act of stopping, because they see pictures of themselves smoking all the time. They are not taught that they should see themselves breathing in fresh air and feeling strong and healthy. Their internal language becomes a barrier to their success. The same goes for people struggling to lose weight, they run pictures of themselves enjoying food with a friend or munching on chips while watching TV. Very few of them see pictures of themselves slim, in a swimsuit at the beach feeling healthy and fit.

For example, when we use the word ‘try’ you are actually giving your subconscious mind permission not to succeed. You are either going to do it or you’re not, so remove the word ‘try’ from your vocabulary.

Psychologists claim it takes around seventeen positive statements to offset a negative statement. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know; the question is, how is your inner is self-talk? Are you sabotaging yourself with toxic words and phrases like, ‘I can’t do anything right, I’ll try and do my best, I’m not good enough, I don’t want to be poor, I don’t want to be stupid, etc.

Watch Your Language

What kind of programming are you doing on a daily basis with your own internal dialogue?

Here’s a list of Toxic words that you should be aware of, look for them in other peoples language.

  • The word ‘But – invalidates any words that are stated before it.
  • The word ‘If – presupposes that you may not.
  • The phrase ‘Would have – past tense that draws attention to things that didn’t actually happen.
  • The phrase ‘Should have – past tense that draws attention to things that didn’t actually happen (implies guilt).
  • The phrase ‘Could have – past tense that draws attention to things that didn’t actually happen, but the person tries to take credit as if it did happen.
  • The word ‘Try – presupposes failure.
  • The word ‘Might – It does nothing definite. It leaves options for your listener.
  • The words ‘Can’t / Don’t – These words force the listener to focus on exactly the opposite of what you want. This mistake parents and coaches make without knowing the damage of this linguistic error.

Do yourself a favour, and write down any toxic phrases or words you use on a daily basis, this will help you begin to notice them and initiate changing them.

Mark Csabai

Mark Csabai is an NLP Life Coach in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He works with clients in and around the Free State to help them achieve more, manage stress, build self-worth, increase confidence, overcome fears and help maintain a better life-balance.