Mind Yer Effin’ Language

career mindset Apr 13, 2020

I mean it! 

The language you use can seriously affect how you feel and the results you get.

We’ll look at the big picture, then some specific examples. before finishing with a look at the language of covid.

Here we go.

Start to pay attention to the words and phrases you use in conversation, both with others, and with yourself in the thoughts you think.

The Big Picture

If you start paying attention to what you say to yourself (out loud and in your thoughts), you’ll probably notice that a lot of it is negative, focusing on what you’re angry and upset about or things that are “going wrong” for you at the moment.

That’s a huge amount of time and energy spent focussing on what you don’t want!

Remembering that key mindset for career success, what you focus on consistently you tend to create in your life, all that negative stuff is not something you probably want to stay focussing on.

The good news is that it is easy to change in three easy steps, as long as you stick at it.

Step 1:

Notice your talk and self-talk (thoughts). Catch yourself in the act when you say something negative or focussing on what you don’t want.

Step 2: 

Congratulate yourself on noticing. This is important, otherwise you start beating yourself up about it.

Step 3: 

Think of three different ways of phrasing it that are more positive. Pick your favourite of those three to use instead.

Specific Examples

  • “Let’s worry about that one later”

It’s amazing how often you hear this. It’s a phrase I grew up with and still catch myself using occasionally. Think about what it is doing though. It is pre-empting that you’ll need to worry about that thing later. So, change the language.

My favourite alternative is: “I’ll deal with that easily later”. 

  • “I was made redundant”

No! You weren’t! Your job was.

You are walking away with every one of your skills and personal qualities to take with you and use elsewhere.

Redundancy is a very negative word. It says that you’re no longer needed or valued.

So, the more you say, “I was made redundant”, the more it negatively affects how you feel about the situation and about yourself, and that will be noticed by others.

So, it is important to get used to saying, “my role was made redundant”. It is not only more factual and it doesn’t associate you with the word, but leaves you to talk about your great skills and qualities and how you’ll use them in the future.

  •  “You make me so mad”

Wait a minute! That’s giving responsibility to someone else for how you feel, and often for your actions. Someone who shouts or bangs their fist on the table will often use the excuse “I can’t help it, it’s just the way I am and he makes me so cross”.  

The thing is to recognise that your initial reaction of anger (or whatever) is telling you that things are not as you’d wish. If your immediate reaction in that situation is to shout, it’s like a reflex. It’s how you have learnt to respond to that trigger. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

My good friend and colleague, Lisa Allen, is an expert in Emotional Intelligence. She advocates that you PAUSE for 6 seconds (that’s the time it takes for the chemicals your body produces in the moment to wash through your body). It gives you time to calm down and choose something different.

I’m sure that although they didn’t know the science behind it then, the phrase “count to 10” from my grandparents and parents era was based on similar wisdom.

The point is that the pause gives you that moment to reflect and choose a different action to your reflex of, say, shouting or banging your fist on the desk.

In terms of language, rather than giving the other person the power in that situation, and to give you the chance to make the most of the pause, you are better to own the situation. So, rather than “you make me so mad”, how about “I feel so mad because….”. You don’t even have to say it out loud. In fact, initially it might be better just to own it for yourself, then pause, and then choose a response that will make the situation better, not worse.

  • “I can’t [insert activity here]”

This is right at the heart of your growth mindset. “I can’t” is a very final statement. It says to your unconscious mind to stop looking for possibilities. However, adding “yet” to it pre-empts that you will be able to do it, just not right now. And it leaves your unconscious mind to work on solutions in the background. So, get in the habit of completing the sentence with a “yet”: “I can’t ….. Yet”.

  • “I’m such an idiot” or “I’m so clumsy” or even “I’m stupid”

This is usually stuff that people say more to themselves than out loud. It will really make a difference to your confidence and feeling of self-worth if you notice the thoughts that you are having about yourself and change any negative or self-depreciating ones such as these.

It isn’t difficult, but it takes persistence.

The trick is not to beat yourself up when you notice yourself using one of these phrases, but to consciously congratulate yourself and then change what you said to something neutral or, preferably, positive.

So, rather than “I’m so clumsy” when you drop something, how about “Whoops! I’ll be sure to hold it more securely next time”.

The reason this change will be so powerful for you is that “I’m clumsy” (I am clumsy), for example, is a statement of identity about who you are. The fact that you dropped something doesn’t define who you are, so changing the language is super important.

The Covid Language

I’ve got a real issue with the language that our governments, the media, health officials, and as a result, all of us, are using around this.

  • Self-Isolation

What does that say? Isolation suggests you’re on your own, isolated from the world, beyond help and social contact.

Wouldn’t “self-insulation” be nicer and more positive and make us feel better. Insulation: wrapping up, keeping warm, protecting from the cold, protecting ourselves and others.

  • Crisis, disaster

I’m not saying we should diminish the situation. It’s one that the world has not faced in living memory, where everyone on the planet is likely to be affected. However, continually using words and phrases like “crisis”, “disaster”, “this awful time”, creates a feeling of hopelessness and panic.

What about if we changed the language to something like “this unprecedented situation”, “the current pandemic”. Neither diminishes the seriousness, but neither do they create more negative feelings. The first suggests recognising the uniqueness of the situation, but also suggests possible opportunity. The second is factual but also reminds us that this is only the current situation, and it will pass.

  • Social Distancing

As human beings, we tend to be social creatures, so phrases like this make us feel separated and disconnected. I don’t know about you, but I am more socially connected and close with people that I’ve maybe ever been. I’m having virtual coffee’s, group meetings on line where I’m connecting with lots of new people as well as connecting and re-connecting with people I know.

My brother even had a virtual breakfast with his running club!

So, wouldn’t it be more positive, not to say accurate, to say physical distancing.

In summary and in action

I hope that the examples I’ve given you will help you to question the language you use, with yourself and others.

I invite you to go away and play with changing the words you use. It will help you positively change your own experience and that of others.

Over to you, what examples can you think of?

If you need another pair of eyes to see how you may be able to shape your particular set of words mindfully, comment below. 

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