Vocabulary can seem like such a minute detail in the larger picture of life. But a few interviews with experts show that your word choice can have a big impact on your approach to life. It’s easy to think of catchy new words to add to your lexicon, but which words, phrases and ideas should you cut out of your internal dictionary?
Here are a few suggestions.
“‘Should’ is shaming, I find,” Tiffany Louise, a therapist and life coach, said. Telling someone they should do something is just as harmful as repeating “should” as part of your internal dialogue. Saying “I should go to the gym” or “I should stop eating this” most likely makes you feel bad about yourself.
Thus, Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian nutritionist, recommended replacing “should” to “want to.” Making that alteration will help you feel motivated rather than ashamed and pressured.
Unless you’re saying something like “I love you” or “I’m proud of you,” the word “you” can be accusatory. Instead, consider replacing it with the word “I.” Rather than “you made me feel bad,” say something like “I feel bad based on …”.
“When we communicate with ‘I,’ it changes the whole tone, especially in conversations that are emotional, challenging and tough,” Louise said. “People are more likely to engage with us when they don’t feel accused.”
“If someone’s doing something and you ask them why, I find that can also be accusatory,” Louise said. Particularly in high-stress situations, throwing a why at someone can certainly make them feel overwhelmed and criticized. Instead of asking “Why did you do that?” Louise recommended phrasing it as “What happened?” or “How did that come to be?”
“How come can’t that be me?”
In today’s world of social media, it’s almost hard not to compare yourself to others. But as Blatner noted, “comparison is the thief of joy.” When you find yourself asking why you can’t be the one with the new job promotion or the killer body, reframe your way of thinking. “It’s none of your business what’s happening in someone else’s world,” Blatner said. “Stick to your own way and just worry about you.”
“I have to achieve my goal.”
Don’t get me wrong, having goals is something to strive for. But be sure to take time to revel in the process, and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t completely achieve your aim. Blatner said the idea of detaching from goals and outcomes is key. “Actually think about enjoying the process,” she added.
How can you eliminate these words from your day-to-day vocabulary? Both Louise and Blatner said it takes time and practice. You’re not going to get it right every time, but keep at it. Try to catch yourself when you do use one of the aforementioned words or phrases and replace it with a better choice. “These are patterns that have been grooved for our whole lives,” Louise said. “It’s [about] having patience and gentleness for yourself.”
Taking action can result in improvements in your relationships with others and your own internal emotions. “Thoughts create your mood,” Blatner said.
Overall, tweaking your word choice can actually help you feel better. “We can create a place inside of our own head that feels more kind and compassionate and encouraging,” Louise said.