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Monday, May 19, 2008

In Other Words?

People use the expression "in other words" because sometimes other words are necessary to better understand something. You probably use it yourself, but how often do you actually think about the words you are using, and the effect they may have? How often do you change the words you use in order to change your perspective or get a better result?

To Think In Other Words That the words we choose affect how we see things, and even affect our physiology, isn't a new idea.

It is easy to prove it to yourself. Just have a friend try to relax while you tell him, "make that tension jump right out of your muscles." Afterwards try it again with, "let the tension drain from your muscles and flow out of your body." Both instructions communicate the same basic idea, but the second is more effective at getting the desired result; relaxation.

In other words, words are used to accomplish something, so why not use the ones that are best suited for the job? It's an idea that makes sense for communicating with others, but it is perhaps even more so when communicating with oneself. Your own "self talk" can dramatically affect whether you get the results you want.

Suppose you repeatedly say something like, "I can't handle this," when in tough situations. You are programming your subconscious mind to believe that you are not capable of doing certain things, and with time this will become more true the more you repeat it. That may not be the result you are hoping for.

In reality, you're probably just tired and frustrated. You actually are "handling" the situation in some way, but you would like a better way to do it. So why not say that instead? When you are tempted to say "this is too much for me," or "I can't handle all this," say, "I'll find a better way to deal with this." This instruction to your subconscious mind is almost certain to be more productive.

Better Words

Below are a few examples of words or phrases that may not be getting you the results you want, followed by some possibly more productive alternatives. These are just to get you thinking. If they make sense for you, use them, but experiment with your own alternatives as well. Think in terms of the goal, and find the words that are most likely to help.

"I can't..." Replacements: "I can..." or "I'm choosing not to right now.."

"This always happens..." Replacement: "Sometimes this happens..."

"I always do the same thing... Replacement: "I make this mistake sometimes..."

"This is so overwhelming..." Replacement: "I'm busy with many goals..."

"I have to..." Replacement: "I choose to..."

This last one reminds you to accept responsibility for your actions. Phrase it this way, and you feel compelled to either reaffirm your choices or make new ones. This prevents you from thinking that others or the "situation" forces you to do things - a very negative and unproductive perspective.

"Never," and "always" commonly show up in phrases that are counter-productive. They are sometimes powerful de-motivators that drain your energy. "This never works for me," or "I always screw up," are not likely to help you get results that you want, are they? Avoid over-generalizing like this, unless it is more like, "I always find a way to get things done." In other words, start using better words.