The Power of Words

The language we use can energize us or stop us dead in our tracks. Words have the ability to change from positive to negative, depending on who is hearing them. A casual comment about your outfit can sound complimentary coming from someone, but the mind of the recipient can twist it into sarcasm or ridicule in an instant.

There are certain words that I have become keenly aware of, ones that I have found replacements for in an attempt have them received better by whoever is listening. These replacements also cause an interesting reaction when I use them. They cause the recipient to pause, reflect on what I said, and search for an answer.

Why would that happen?

We have trained our brains to have certain habitual responses to questions asked by others. “How are you doing today?” “Fine.” “Good.” “Everything’s fine.” This automatic response is probably only true 5% of the time. The other 95%, there would be another answer to give. “Not so great, I haven’t been feeling like myself.” “Things could be better.” “Fantastic, I had an amazing day….” Our habitual response to this question has become short and untrue. In order to stop the habitual response, we have to stop the habitual question or statement.

Just changing one word can break the habitual response pattern.

Sorry vs. Thank You

“I’m so sorry I’m late!” How many times have you said that in your life? Probably so many you couldn’t count them. Maybe even so often that it’s become the first thing you say everywhere you go.

Sorry is a feeling of regret or remorse for doing something wrong. “I’m sorry I stepped on your toe!” “I’m sorry I spilled my drink.” “I’m sorry I said something hurtful.” These are all examples of what being sorry should be.

“Thank you for waiting for me.”

Thank you is acknowledgement of gratitude. “Thank you for holding the door.” “Thank you for sharing your story.” “Thank you for letting me vent.” This expresses gratitude which fills the recipient with gratitude and has the power to extinguish what could become a stressful or even volatile conversation. It also increases our production of our happy hormones. When we feel genuine and express gratitude, we release serotonin, our wellbeing and happiness hormone. When others receive gratitude, they release dopamine because it is a type of reward, which makes them feel happiness. Thank You has a greater power, even scientifically!

Time vs. Space

“Do you have time for…..”

What is the automatic response to this question?

“I don’t have time today.” “I can’t waste time on that.” “Time has gone by so fast.”

I conducted a personal experiment. I began using the word space instead of time last year. I began asking people if they had space for me.

“Do you have space in your day for a 10 minute call?” “Do you have space this week to have lunch with me?”

I began to see something extremely interesting. Each time I asked, the person couldn’t answer immediately. Their habitual response to “Do you have time…” could not be spoken because the question had one word in it that threw on the brakes of the habitual response. SPACE.

Try it. Ask yourself right now, “Do I have space in my day to read my book?” What happens inside your head? You begin looking closer at your day and LOOKING for the space available to get 15-20 minutes in to read the next chapter.

When I saw a person’s brakes come on, I would wait patiently for their response and after receiving it, I would ask them, “What just happened when I asked for space? I saw you mentally stop in your tracks.” They would always answer something along the lines of “You threw me off by asking for space.”

This experiment also showed me that asking for space created a feeling in others that I felt their space was important, that I recognized I would take some of it, and that I wanted to be a part of their space. It showed them value by acknowledging the importance of me coming into their space as well as them sharing their space.

There are several other word swaps I have done that are proving how powerful words are. This morning’s quote is a perfect example of that as well. If you can’t get to the tasks you wanted today, try a word swap. “I can get my laundry folded and the bathroom cleaned. I have space for the meal planning and grocery shopping tomorrow.”

I’d love to hear what swaps you came up with!


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