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The Power of Language

Betty Lochner blog

This week’s post is written by Leah Kyaio at With Respect LLC. Leah was a speaker at the Fall Women’s Summit. Check out Leah’s website and click on the virtual learning tab at the top.

Words. We use them every day. We speak them, write them, and think them. Words are the foundations of relationships; personal, professional, and casual. How many of us really pay attention to the words we use?

The language we use has power.

As it turns out, our cultural use of language in this country (and others) is riddled with shame, blame, judgement, and guilt inducing words and phrases. They are commonly heard from the time we are young and consequently infiltrate our daily lives without our noticing.

“How could you do that?

“What were you thinking?”

“I’m so disappointed in you!”

Think of how each of these phrases could easily be depicted by someone pointing directly at “you.” How does that feel? Yeah, not so good.

We know when we have used such words and phrases by how others respond to us. When shame, blame, guilt, and judgement are triggered the natural response is defense. We deflect, withdraw, even lie to reflexively prevent the feelings from landing within us.

To be clear, we all have been socially conditioned to use language in this way. In most cases, it is not out of malice or even awareness that these words roll off our tongue. It is a life long habit.

How do you change a life long habit?

Turns out there is a simple tool to address the power of language and how to change. It takes a moment to learn and a life time to master. The more it is used, the more proficient we become. It is called the 1-2-3 tool.

  1. Decide WHAT you want to change.
  2. Identify what you want to CHANGE it TO.
  3. Then CATCH and CORRECT yourself in the moment.

The example I often use is a habit I once found myself using on myself. It was the use of the word “stupid” in response to my behavior, choices, or mistakes. “That was stupid.”

Language is powerful! Using the word ‘stupid’ to describe or define myself is a reflection and reinforcement of that belief within myself. Not something I want to believe nor reinforce for myself.

The Power of Language: Using the 1-2-3 tool

  1. I realize that WHAT I want to change is the word ‘stupid.’
  2. I identify that what I want to CHANGE it TO is the word ‘unfortunate.’ “That was unfortunate.” I am now describing the situation (not me) and using language that is less powerful.
  3. Now, every time I begin to hear myself say “That was stupid” – inside my head or out of my mouth – I CATCH myself and CORRECT it; “That was unfortunate.”

It takes time but, with commitment, it works! Best of all, it works for language and behavior.

Now you have one more tool in your toolbox. Building our toolboxes is crucial as we continue our journey of being our best self. Without tools we are stuck with the same old, same old.

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Betty Lochner is a human resources consultant, business coach, and expert in workplace communications. She is the author of two books on communication, and a newly published journal, Intentional Gratitude.

To connect and learn more about the Women’s Summit and women supporting women, please join my free, private FB here: Confident Communication for Women.

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