It is a chicken-and-egg conundrum: do our words produce our thoughts, or do our thoughts determine our word choice? Yes, and yes. We choose our words based on our thinking of an issue and our thinking is swayed by the words we use to describe issues.
Most of the time, I am fairly unconscious about my word choice. When the result of my communication is not as expected, I will slow down and be more intentional about how I choose to describe things. When communicating with others, I monitor their feedback, both verbal and nonverbal, that tells me how effective my word choice may be.
But what about my internal communication, the messages I am unconsciously sending myself when I choose particular words or expressions? I posit that the words we use can also cause our thoughts to channel a particular direction. Just as I watch outwardly for signs of effective communication, I now am more conscious of looking inwardly to see how my words are affecting my thoughts and behaviors.
LISTENING TO THE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD
By Dr. Alice Waagen
I have been monitoring my inner dialogue since realizing how my internal conversations affect my actions and emotions. Most of the time, my self-talk keeps me focused and produces positive results. But sometimes I will talk to myself with language that is negative and can produce stress, anxiety and frustration. These negative emotions then leak out into external interactions and I pretty much have a bad day on my hands.
I’ve identified three different word choices that I plan to eliminate from my self-talk by substituting more positive language. See if these word changes will work for you:
- Reduce stress by replacing ANDs with ORs. In the past, new ideas were birthed by me saying “I can do this new thing and all the rest that is on my plate.” In the future, I will add new work by asking “I can take on this new work or I can …” Adding new will not be an increase of work and the associated stress, it will be added by taking something else off the list. ORs force a conscious tradeoff; they acknowledge that there is scant time to take on new. To put something on, something has to come if. Simply put, by using more ORs, I’ll be consciously exercising setting and resetting priorities, not just adding more work to the finite amount of time.
- Be more consciously present by replacing “and then I am going to …” with “I am …” In the past, every time I started a project or activity, I would be looking ahead at what was next. In the future, I will not entertain those words until I finish what I am doing. By shifting my focus from what’s next to what is now, I will slow time down a bit and enjoy the present before it drifts away.
- Eliminate regret by replacing SHOULDs with DIDs. The SHOULDs are an insidious thought train. In the past, I would get stuck in a should-loop, thinking of all the errors and mistakes, and put myself in a self-critical destructive state of mind. Now when the SHOULDs surface, I shift to accomplishments, victories, even laughter at the unexpected outcomes of my actions.
These three, simple word-changes shift my thinking from negative to constructive. I’ve already seen great results this holiday season with more ORs and less ANDs. Year-end is a time ripe for over commitments. My ORs are keeping the burnout beast at bay for me.
I challenge everyone to join me in using OR – NOW – and DID in your internal conversations. We are all conscious of monitoring our external conversations. Talking to oneself can have as much impact on your effectiveness and results as your outward conversations with others. Pay attention to that voice in your head. Turn it into a source of positive energy and motivation to tackle the challenges in the New Year.