Recently, I was in a car with the promoter of one of my performances. He had picked me up at the airport and was driving me to my hotel. On the way, we talked about guitars. We got onto the subject of Olson Guitars, arguably the best guitar in the whole world. At one point, the promoter said, “Yea, well, in my entire life I’ll never own an Olson guitar.”
Many years ago, I’d probably let a remark like this slide on by, even adding my own “me either” to the mix.
Now, I can’t. Yoda steps into my head and says, (in a very Yoda-like voice) “So certain are you. Always with you it cannot be done.”
So, I turned to the promoter and said, “You are NOT allowed to say that!”
This is because I know the power of language. When you know that words become things and that words create worlds, it’s hard to let language slide.
At the retreats I facilitate, I am constantly asking the women to re-word something they just said. By the third day, the women cast sideways glances at me when they know they’ve said something negative about themselves.
I can’t help it. I have a philosophy that friends don’t let friends speak crappily. Language is powerful. Words can create reality. Even if my promoter friend doesn’t know how on earth he’d ever get an Olson Guitar, it doesn’t mean he should cut off the possibility with his own words.
So, this is a reminder post. I know, from personal experience, how easy it is to slip back into old patterns of language. I know how easy it is to give little credence to the power of words.
So, here are 8 practical language principles for anyone who wants to be a better creator of her life.
1 – Eliminate “never” and “always.”
Never and always are words of hysteria. “I always screw everything up!” “I’ll never figure this out!” “I’ll never get an Olson Guitar.”
First off, it’s not true. If you always screwed everything up, you wouldn’t have made it out of the womb.
And second off, extreme words are designed to hook you. It’s just your emotions taking a joyride. You’re more powerful than that.
2 – Use AND instead of BUT.
“But” dismisses the statement before it. “And” includes it. For instance, “That’s a good article, but it needs some editing” isn’t nearly as encouraging as “That’s a good article, AND it needs some editing.” “I love you, but…” is another great example of the dismissive power of “but.”
3 – Avoid “Should.”
Should is a crappy word for many reasons. It is victim-speak. It disempowers its object. It negates desires, thereby making it harder to make choices. It adds a nebulous illusory energy to the decision making process. Use empowering language instead: “I could…” “I would…” “I am choosing to,” “I would like to,” “I don’t want to,” or “You might consider…”
4 – Stop calling yourself depressed.
Also stop allowing anyone to tell you that you are depressed. When you call yourself “depressed” or “obsessive compulsive” or “ADHD” or whatever – you’re claiming this thing. You’re calling it forth with the most powerful two words in our language: “I am.” That creates very little option for the transformation of this condition.
A friend of mine told me that she loved that I never called her depressed. I’m the only person who had refused that word to describe her. It helped her to get off anti-depressants.
Another friend of mine has challenged me to stop calling myself a Four on the enneagram. She reminded me that the study of the enneagram is to reveal the essence of who we really are – and that we are not our number. She told me to stop defaulting into “I’m a four” when I get triggered.
5 – Delete the word “hate” from your vocabulary.
“Hate” has lots of energy. When you use it, you send lots of energy out into the very thing you “hate.” Even if it’s negative energy, it’s still a powerful force, adding its charge to that thing. You’re also depleting this energy from your own spirit as you say it.
7 – Be “great.” Or “wonderful.”
A disease of the artist temperament is a belief that we must be authentic at all costs. And so we can’t answer a simple “How are you?” without delving into an in-depth scan of our emotional temperature.
Try this instead: When people ask you how you’re doing, just say “I’m great!” I used to think if I told people I’m great, I had better have a damn good reason for saying it, like I just won the lottery or something. I thought it would make me look suspicious, and people would start to wonder if something was wrong with me. But then I did it. And you know what? Most people don’t really care why you’re great. You’re saying it for you.
8 – Pay attention to the music of your speech.
You know how some people? They talk in question marks? And you have no idea why? But it makes you think you shouldn’t really rely on them? And it makes you not want to hire them?
The music of your language says a lot about you. If you let your sentences droop like Eeyore, (“Thanks for noticing me.”) or if you do the uncertain question mark language, take note of what attitudes are causing this. These patterns are created for a reason. Even if it feels like faking it at first, generate confidence as you speak.