Why Do Words Matter?

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  When I got teased as a youngster that is the saying my mother taught me.  She assured me that they would stop once I said it.  I was never convinced that names wouldn’t hurt me.  In fact, I knew they stung.

Fast forward to now and we see that words on the Internet (Facebook, Instagram etc.) can and do hurt people.  It can be excessive and hurtful.

Not only can words hurt when they are said by others, but our own words said out loud or in thought can hurt us too. Certainly not a way to be happy at work or any place for that matter.

A client recently told me that she admired her co-worker’s ability to “toot her own horn” but she couldn’t do it herself.  When I asked her what stopped her, she said it felt like boasting to her.  So, in her mind when she wanted to tell her boss about an accomplishment, she told herself that it would be boasting and did not do it.

She knew keeping her boss informed of her accomplishments was part of the job but when she thought about doing it, the word “boasting” came up and stopped her. This was one of the things that got in the way of her being happy at work.   I asked her what if she thought of it as educating the boss.  That resonated with her. She agreed that words really matter and she would work on changing the language in her thoughts.

For most of my life I wanted to exercise regularly but just couldn’t make it a habit.  I went to the gym sporadically but because I didn’t think of it as fun or beneficial, it was hard to make myself continue.

It took many false starts at exercise before I was able to get a regular routine.  It happened when I got older and I began to gain weight. To get rid of the weight I joined a weight loss class.  The instructor told the class that if we exercised, we would lose the weight faster and she told me since I was only a few pounds overweight that exercise would make the difference between losing the weight and not losing it.

The weight loss instructor’s instructions made me see that to keep my weight under control I needed to exercise.  In fact she said I didn’t need to change my diet that much if I worked out. When I thought of working out instead of thinking “Ugh, I hate the gym” I now thought, “I want to be healthy and diet plus exercise helps me to be healthy.”  Now I saw the gym as a way to live a healthy lifestyle. Both words that you say and ones that you think really matter.

A different example can be seen in this YouTube video by Simon Sinek.   In it he says that Olympic athletes describe the moment when they begin their event as feeling excited not nervous.  We call our feelings of heart pounding, hands clammy etc.  nervousness while the athlete calls those feelings excitement.

Yesterday I heard an interview with Conan O’Brien. The interviewer asked Conan if he was scared the first time he hosted his own late-night talk show.  Conan said he was probably scared but he was also “delusional”.  He thought his humor would connect with the audience and he had to give it a try.  That kept him from saying no to the opportunity.  Maybe in this case “delusional” is good. The words of his thoughts were overwhelmingly positive and he wasn’t allowing any scared thoughts to stop him.

Words matter whether you say them or think them.

So, what is it that has you stuck, that a change in thoughts or words would help you to accomplish?

Which of these approaches do you think will work for you?  Need some help?   Sometimes just changing your language or thoughts is simple but other times the negative language persists.  If that happens to you, I can help.  Call me at 617-240-5353 to determine if coaching would help you.  You can also email me at asparker@asparker.com to set up an appointment.

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