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I am a firm believer that the language we use affects us in different ways. [1]

Here are two examples.

Example 1: Language That Suggests Aiming For Something You Can’t Achieve

Take, for instance, the phrase, “Fix the relationship.” You may hear yourself say these words if you have a poor relationship with a client or a co-worker. The problem is that relationships require constant work and ‘fixing’ suggests an end state. So, by aiming for something ill-defined, we place pressure on ourselves to achieve the impossible.

Change the language to ‘improve’, ‘invest time in’, or ‘grow’, and we create opportunities to achieve small successes every day. These words provide flexibility rather than rigidity.

What words or phrases are you using that create pressure or stress you don’t need to feel? What could you be saying instead?

Example 2: Using Words You Haven’t Defined For Yourself

There are some big words we use a lot that convey different meanings to different people. When I hear clients use these words, I like to ask them what they mean to them. Often, they haven’t given the words much thought and, as such, are not aware of the effect those words are having.

Here are some of my favourites. Take some time to think about what they mean to you:

  • Success. Success means different things to different people. I often hear, “I want to be successful”. When I ask, “What does success look like for you?”, it becomes apparent that it’s a question that hasn’t been given much thought. How do you define your success?
  • Confidence. “I want to build my confidence” is another common aspiration. What does confidence mean to you? Many people haven’t given that much thought either.
  • Leadership. People want to be good leaders and there is power in understanding what that means to them. Again, it’s personal to everyone and there is no one-size-fits-all.

What words are you using, or have you heard used by others, without thinking about what they really mean?

Think about the impact your language is having on you.


[1] That doesn’t mean I always get it right for myself.