The language we use makes a difference. We know that a poor choice of words can strain or even destroy a relationship. Likewise, an inspiring choice of words, especially when delivered in a stirring manner, can motivate people to try harder, to have confidence, to go beyond what we might have thought possible.
Motivational speakers, writers, movie-makers and other persuaders use their language skills to inspire and influence. Choosing words carefully and delivering them effectively can change what people think. Language can bring people together or pull people apart.
The words we use don’t only influence others; they also influence us. This can have surprisingly useful consequences for our behaviour and for our satisfaction.
You already know that there are some things we can control and many other things that we can’t. Granted, it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between what is or is not controllable. In fact, hot disputes sometimes boil down to the question: Is this issue controllable? Or not?
One area where we can strive to have at least some control is in our own actions and attitude. The Choice Theory suggestion is that as we control our actions, we can gain control over our thoughts, feelings, and bodily responses.
Thus, if your stomach is queasy because you’re worried about an important interview, one action you can take is to prepare your answers to questions that might be asked of you. This action is even more effective if you dress up in your interview clothes, sit at a proper desk, and practice your answers out loud. The actions help focus your thoughts, add confidence to your feelings, and possibly even calm your roiling insides.
This brings me back to language, and how we can use our language to change our outlook. Dan Pink, author of many books and video presentations about motivation, offers a tip on how to motivate ourselves. He suggests that we say “get to” rather than “have to.” For example, rather than telling ourselves, “I have to exercise,” say, “I get to exercise.” Or say, “I get to go to the interview” rather than “I have to…”
Pink’s rationale is that “have to” implies to us that we are being controlled, whereas “get to” taps into our intrinsic motivation. “Get to” carries with it a suggestion of opportunity rather than drudgery. I would also add that “get to” connects to the opportunity for gratitude. We can be grateful that we get to do a task, rather than resentful for being required to do so.
You can see the difference for tiny tasks as well as big ones. The phrases, “I get to make my bed” versus “I have to make my bed” express quite different sentiments, don’t they?
How about, “I get to go to work,” rather than “I have to go to work”? If you’ve been taking work for granted, this could bring a new perspective. Or “I get to go to a party,” rather than “I have to go to a party.” If you’re an introvert who would much rather stay home, reframing the situation using these words might just help. You could even consider “I get to go to the doctor” compared to “I have to go to the doctor.” Same journey; different outlook.
Can such a simple change of language really make a difference? Try your own experiments. See if it works for you. And then of course, you get to let me know
Welcome to Reality Check:
articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
- Choosing Behaviour
- Choosing Perspective
- Control and Choice
- Develop Understanding
- Doing, Thinking, Feeling, Physiology
- How it is sometimes
- Love & Belonging
- Perception & Reality
- Personal Freedom