Your Words Are Powerful: 8 Positive Speaking Habits to Build Yourself Up

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Last week, I spoke of texting some friends about the state of the world and changing the conversation to more positive thinking.  When I asked for them to let me know 3 things they were grateful for, the first response was, “Not a whole lot of good these days. I’m alive and healthy.  That is pretty much it.”

My heart sank.  This person has a wonderful family, two beautiful children, income, and has a spark for life that challenged me to better since the day I met her.  Have our lives really come to this?  The only thing to be thankful for is breath?  (Don’t get me wrong, breathing is powerful, important, and amazing!  But, honestly, there is so much more to be grateful for).

This got me thinking.  Have you ever heard yourself saying:

“This is too hard/impossible to….”

“I could never do….”

“I’ll try, but no guarantees.”

“This is such a nightmare!”

If you lived through 2020, chances are yes. When we do this, we set ourselves up for failure.  We set ourselves up to find the nightmares, the impossible, and to dwell on the negative.  Psychological research has found that your subconscious interprets what it hears literally. This means your mind and body will follow the direction your words lead. In other words, your words are POWERFUL!  If you want more opportunity, life, love, etc. project the positive things into the world each time you open your mouth – or more importantly, repeat in your mind.

Your words can change how you view yourself and your body.  They can transform dreams into goals and goals into reality.  They can also create negative thoughts, feelings, anxiety, and depression.

Those who speak negatively, view life and all circumstances as negative.  They create a pattern of negativity in their life.  Those who speak positively, view the glass half-full to speak, are achieving goals and success in all aspects of their lives.

The language we use impacts on how we are perceived by others.  I have created entire teams based on the language they use.  Negative language leads to demoralized teams and failures.  Making excuses leads to missed deadlines and disunity.  Positive language leads to success in the face of difficulty.  Giving solutions leads to moving forward on a project. 

Our brain and mind are powerful.  They ensure our body functions daily without our thoughts.  They ensure we learn and grow.  They are rewireable! Let’s do just that! Spend 24 hours monitoring your speech (and thoughts).  Then, have someone else do the same for the next 24 hours.  Then, you can really see where changes need to be made.  This puts you firmly in command, shifts your energy and, in doing so, makes you someone others want to listen to.

Dated picture of me as drum major of my high school band circa 2002-2003

1. Have a drum major mentality: Drum majors lead bands of hundreds in intricate field shows and parades.  Their heads are held high – eyes on the horizon.  Their posture is straight, and they march with confidence.  Their facial expressions are strong.  Their tone of voice carries authority.  Stand up tall.  Shoulders back.  Smile.  Take on the world with a posture of authority.  This will amplify your presence, and it will ensure the words you say come out in a way that will have an optimal impact on who hears them.

2. Reframe your words and thoughts:  As Henry Ford so aptly put it “If you think you can or you can’t, your right.” Stop thinking “I can’t” and “I won’t.” Instead, see yourself accomplishing things and change your language to “I can” and “I will.”  Speak “I have love”, I love,” and “I create…”. 

3. Absolutes are not your friend: I teach my son taking tests, absolutes are wrong.  If the question states only, always, never, etc.;  pick the answer false. Ignore that answer in the multiple-choice questions.  Don’t use this language in your test-taking or your life.  Instead of “They are a complete idiot”, say “they see things differently.”  Instead of “I could never” state, “I can with help.”

4. Stop apologizing: My older brother has hounded me on this for years.  It is a hard habit to break.  I apologize for not agreeing, for someone else bumping into me, for my success.  Why?  To bring me down so others feel better?  As Rachel Hollis put it, Girl, Stop apologizing! You have value.  Your success does not minimize others.  Stop.  Just be respectful.

5. Ditch “Should”: Growing up I wanted to be a Navy Seal.  I was told I could not because I was female.  So then, I wanted to be the first female president of the US. (I even attended the National Young Leaders Conference in DC and had my first interview at a lobbying firm at age 15).  Then I became a mom.  My dreams took a back seat.  (Don’t get me wrong – I do NOT want to be President or a Navy Seal now).  The word “should” entered my life as an excuse.  “I should write more, but my son needs…,”  “I should work out more, but my life is too busy,” “I should eat more fruits and vegetables, but I am on the road too much.”  I had to learn to change “should” to “could.”  “I could write more when I plan it in my schedule,” “I could work out more with an accountability partner,” “I could eat more fruits and vegetables when I bring them with me on the road.”

6. Commit. Don’t try: When we say, “I’ll try” we are not committing to anything.  When we do not do it, we excuse ourselves.  When we commit we congratulate ourselves. A simple change from “I will try to work out this week” to “I will work out this week” commits our minds to accomplishment.  There is a reason why Nike’s slogan “Just do it” is still impactful decades later.  As I tell my son and the youth I work with, break up with “try” and marry “will.”  Stop trying.  Start doing.   

7. Stop labeling: I love labels!  If you look at my kitchen, labels are everywhere!  But, labels in life, are limiting and debilitating.  Labeling yourself as “lazy”, “fat,” “disorganized,” “spender,” “terrible at…” tells your brain you are those things.  Just because you are those things today, does not mean you have to be those things tomorrow.  You CAN change! Start saying things like, “I am hardworking,”, “I will be organized,” and “I will be better with money.”  Change is one step away.

8. Problems are opportunities in disguise: We all have “problems.”  What differentiates successful people is how they look at problems.  Successful people look at problems as opportunities.  Instead of “I failed” and “Well, that didn’t work” they look at problems as “I know what doesn’t work.” Instead of “What a nightmare!” it becomes, as my son says, “What an interesting challenge.”

You are capable of more than you think.  You do not have to live in this state for the rest of your life.  You have the power to change.  You are amazing.  You are wonderfully made.  You have a unique purpose.  Choose to speak what brings out the best in you.  Be more positive and see the change it makes in your life. 

I would love to hear how your positive words and thoughts are making impactful changes in your life and the lives of those around you. Drop a comment.  If you like what you read, please share.  Together, we can make this world a positive one.

The Power of Words: Or How to Create a More Positive and Productive Environment

“My kid has too much autonomy. I just had to calm her down from a screaming fit,” my manager told me as we have a one on one monthly meeting via Skype for Business.  “I am so tired.  A day feels like a month and a month feels like a day.  I can’t even keep track anymore.”

“I can’t wait to get back to normal when my kid can get out of my hair for once,” a friend expresses over a virtual cup of coffee.

“Can you believe the curriculum they are teaching?  Who comes up with these questions?” A post repeated on social media.

“I can’t wait for my spouse to go back to work so I can get back to routine with my child.  My spouse just gives in to any whim.  I am going backward,” said spouses across the world who are not used to 24 hours 7 days a week contact.

 Sound familiar?  Maybe you have said one of these? Thought one of these?  Posted one of these? 

If you have, you are not alone.  What do all these things have in common?  They are all complaints

MRI scans of the brain and complaining
Images of the Brain Complaining
CREDIT: How Complaining Rewires Your Brain

What Complaining Does to the Brain

According to Travis Bradberry, Co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and President at TalentSmart,  a typical person complains once per minute in a typical conversation!  This is very unhealthy because our brains are creatures of lazy habits.  When we repeat our pattern, our brain takes less work to repeat than learn. 

Think of teaching your kid to tie a shoe.  When we first begin the process there is push back, frustration, a lot of concentration.  But once it is learned, and repeated (usually multiple times a day), it becomes second nature, and the child no longer thinks about the process. 

The same is true with our words.

Images of D. Emoto's research on the power of words on water crystals.
The pictures show the observations of Dr. Emoto. The nice words of affirmation create beautiful geometric shapes while the negative words create damaging shapes.

Words Have Power

On Solomon Island giant beautiful trees sometimes need to be cut.  When this is a particularly challenging task, the locals perform a special curse. They join together and yell insults and other derogatory words at the tree, and according to local legend, the negative energy transfers to the tree which then falls within a couple days.

In his book, The Hidden Messages of Water, Dr. Masuro Emoto, reports on his studies on the effects of words on water crystals through high-speed photography and found water crystals formed beautiful geometric shapes when words of love and gratitude were spoken near the water, but destructive shapes when evil words were spoken.

If this is what happens to plants and crystals, how much more does words affect the human mind and health?

According to Stephen Parton, complaining actually KILLS YOU.

Try the Complaint Zapper

How to Move from Complaining to a Gratitude Attitude

Solomon, credited as the wisest man ever to live, said “the soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit,” (Proverbs 15:4) and “the tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit,” (Proverbs 18:21).  Did you know there are over 126 passages in the Bible discussing the tongue? 

It appears, in this matter, faith and science agree.  Stop complaining!

But how do we do this?

There is a lot of research on behavior showing numerous ways to modify behavior from eating too much to not sitting down while doing school work. The same theories and practices apply to our minds. Here are three simple ideas on how to move from complaining to a gratitude attitude.

From the mouths of babes: How to use positive words

1.      Replace your focus: How many times have you watched a movie or show and fixated on the message, the scenes, the story long after it ended?  Read a book you just couldn’t put down?  Where you focus is where your brain will go.

When I was learning to drive, my mother told me, “Where your eyes look is where the car will go.”  I have learned this principle applies to my mind as well. 

If I focus on negative, my tongue is negative.  If I focus on what is wrong with the world, my tongue reflects that. But, when I focus on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– anything excellent or praiseworthy—my entire world changes from all things against me to peaceful, strong and enduring.

2.      Replace your behavior: It is easy to say think about good things and entirely different to actually do it. One way I have replaced my tendency to complain is (as trite as it sounds) is to count my blessings. 

In our family discussions of the day, for every bad thing we say, we must say three positive things for the day.  If I had a bad day at work, I am now forced to think of blessings (that car that let me in before the light changed, my son getting his school work done early, lunch at the table with my hubby).  Suddenly, what seemed like the worst day has transformed into a really good day.   

3.      Practice. A great way to do this is by keeping a journal.  There are a lot of calendars and planners that actually have recording your blessings as part of planning for the day; our favorite one this daily planner.

I enjoy doing this as part of my daily meditation when I work out.  Using that last little bit at the end of a work out (when endorphins are naturally high) to focus on good, re-sets my brain. 

4.      Accountability:  We are only as strong as the team we have around us.  The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) did a study on accountability and found that you have a 65% chance of completing a goal if you commit to someone. And if you have a specific accountability appointment with a person you’ve committed, you will increase your chance of success by up to 95%.

Share your desire to change focus with your spouse, friends, and family.  Then ask them to hold you accountable to this. 

May family around the Liberty Bell in Disney World.
What I am most grateful for: my family who can spending time together.

It is easy, especially in quarantine, to focus on the negative.  It is easy to want to vent this to your spouse, friends, the world.  But, I caution too much of this will physically and emotionally destroy. 

I encourage you to make shifting your focus from negative to positive a priority. Ask for an accountability partner in this.  And remember, this is a daily discipline.  This will not become second nature until you make it a discipline.  Like all disciplines, it grows with you and molds to where you are and what you do.

Let me know how this works for you.  What is working for you?  What strategies have you used?  What did not work?  I love hearing from you.