I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage that words can’t hurt you or stick and stones may break my bones, blah, blah, blah. The truth is words do matter. Words are used to hurt, discourage, belittle, and condemn. And they can also be used to empower, build up, motivate, inspire, and heal. The words you use when talking to others matter. And the words you use when thinking about yourself and your own capabilities matter just as much. This article expounds on why it’s important to choose your words wisely.
A Personal Story
Like many homes with children, I had rules in my house around the use of “bad words.” My two children were taught from a young age which words and beliefs were acceptable in the home. I’ll never forget when my kids were about 5 and 9, a neighbor kid had come over to play. We were all in a central area and I was just partially paying attention to what the kids were doing when I hear my son gasp and whisper (rather loudly, I might add) to his friend,
“Oh no, you said a bad word!”
I turn around to find my son’s eyes huge, hand over mouth, and my daughter (the oldest) with eyes darting back and forth between the guilty guest and me, waiting to see what would happen next. In the meantime, the neighbor kid looked perplexed, confused, and a bit dumbfounded. You could almost see the wheels turning in his mind wondering what word he said that was bad. It was too soon to intervene and I couldn’t wait to watch the scene unfold.
Friend: “No, I didn’t. I didn’t say a bad word.”
My Son: “Yes, you did! Didn’t he Angela?!” (Angela doesn’t respond but is watching the scene intently)
Friend: “No, I didn’t! What did I say?”
By now, everyone is looking at me for confirmation, help, or a lifeline. I didn’t say a word because I wasn’t sure what he said.
My son looks my way to make sure he won’t get in trouble for repeating the bad word and staunchly proclaims,
“You said can’t.“
Bad Words Come in Small Packages
The neighbor kid is now completely confused and looks at me for confirmation while exclaiming “That’s not a bad word!” to which my son proceeds to educate him on the fact that it is, in fact, a naughty word. And then he asks me to back him up on this pronouncement.
I remember that day because I was so happy to know this belief had been handed down to my children in such a profound way. While I informed the kids that every home has its own rules and that in our home, that word, was in fact, a bad word, it was also a great opportunity to reinforce the reason for this rule.
How Words Matter
Words matter. The reason my kids weren’t allowed to use the word can’t, is because, in my opinion, it’s a self-limiting cop-out. Either you can but you don’t want to, don’t know how, or simply would rather not. Or you don’t currently believe you have the aptitude but haven’t bothered to try to find out. Or you don’t want to make the effort to figure out how to do it. Why not just be honest with yourself and everyone around you? Think about it. There are very few things in life that couldn’t be described more succinctly than using the bad word.
I don’t know how to speak Japanese yet I’m willing to learn.
I currently don’t have the time in my schedule to complete that task. Could we move the date or would you like to take something off my plate?
I’m not allowed to go to Joey’s house without asking my parents first.
I need help tying my shoes. I don’t remember the next step.
Being more succinct actually gives us greater control. That word – the bad word my kids weren’t allowed to say, is very disempowering. That’s why they weren’t allowed to say it. This is just one example of how words matter. Let’s talk about how they matter in your life.
Replacing the Bad Word
When someone asks you to go do something, instead of the standard “I can’t because . . .” why not be honest and just say, “I have other plans.” Using that bad word takes all the power away from you and gives the impression to others that you have no control over your own life. Saying you have other plans (even if the plans are a bubble bath and a glass of wine) says you are in control of your life. You call the shots.
If confidence is stopping you from telling others you have plans, you might like this article: How to Increase Your Confidence with 3 Easy Steps
Using Empowering Words
Take a few minutes to think about the go-to words in your vocabulary. Be conscious of the language you are using regarding your own abilities. Nobody has control over your life and decisions but you so quit giving your power away with your words.
Instead of “I can’t create my own website” try “I don’t yet have the skills but I know I’m fully capable of learning.”
Rather than “I just can’t get my home organized,” try, “There are other things I have found more interesting than organizing my home yet I’m confident I can learn and enjoy organizing too.”
Instead of lamenting “I just can’t do this anymore!” try “Every minute of my life is too important to fill up with things that don’t matter. I’m making the choice to change my life now.”
If you’d like to learn more about limiting beliefs and how your beliefs might need some modification, you might like this article: How Beliefs Affect Behavior
You get the idea.
Be careful of your thoughts.
And be conscious of your words.
Words matter my friend. Choose your words and thoughts wisely.