The Power of Language:
How to Shape Your Reality With Your Words
BY MARK ENGLAND
the power of language to influence our life for the better is immense. photo: bhumika bhatia
What was the most beautiful thing someone has ever said to you? Take a moment and revisit that experience… What do you see? How do you feel? It could have been just one sentence—one single sentence that changed you for a moment, or maybe even a lifetime.
There is more to our language than strict grammar and spelling. There is a real power to it; magic even. Our language dances with our imaginations. It creates an incredible range of emotions and feelings, which quite often make the difference between someone loving their life and sabotaging it.
In my early twenties I was a very competitive martial artist. It was my obsession. After college my plan was to move to Thailand for a year to train in Muay Thai, or Thai Boxing, then return home and continue competing. Two months into my plan I was seriously injured. In all of my testosterone-fueled brilliance I kept practicing, the injury got worse, and I ended up having surgery. The doctor was very clear with his message: “Your career as a fighter is over.”
I spent the next eight months miserable, bitter, and on a bar stool. I lost my sense of humor (a very weird experience) and watched myself get more and more antisocial. Eventually it dawned on me that I could end up living that way indefinitely. I took a hard look down that road, saw the path and destination and gave myself the shivers. In that moment I made the decision to change my attitude—and my story. Before I could change the way I felt about my life I had to understand more about the process.
becoming conscious of the power of language will have a massive positive impact on the quality and depth of your relationships. photo: fotos4people photocase.com
When I say ABRACADABRA what do you instantly think of?
I was having dinner with friends in Ecuador several years ago when one of the guys at the table said, “Hey Mark, do you know what abracadabra means?” I replied, “magic”. He said, “No, no it doesn’t”. He then told me the real story: “Abracadabra is Aramaic. Aramaic is the language the original Old Testament was written in and is one of the two languages Jesus spoke. Abracadabra means ‘with my word I create’ or ‘with my word I influence.’ They had so much respect for this sacred teaching that they would triangulate Abracadabra and wear it around their necks to remind them of the power of the spoken word.” I was speechless.
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“Have a good attitude”
Have you ever received the advice, “Have a good attitude” or “Just try to be more positive”? That is often the depth and extent of instructions most of us get for developing our characters and mindset. There is, of course, more to it than that.
The words we speak to other people and the thoughts we hear in our minds, add up and create our personal stories. Those stories eventually shape and create our realities. Words to stories, stories to realities. This is the power of language.
I had a young woman come to see me because she had body image issues. We started talking about how she was feeling and about the language patterns she was mired in. After digging a little deeper we identified something I call a “story seed event”.
Every Christmas her whole family would get together, celebrate and exchange gifts. She opened one of her presents (a t-shirt) and held it up for everyone to see. Laughter erupted immediately (especially from her mean-spirited aunt who gave it to her). She looked at the front of the shirt and saw a plump cartoon cat with the words, “I am not fat, I am just big boned” next to its head. She dropped the shirt and ran out of the room crying.
Those words, “I am not fat. I am just big boned,” became seared into her mind. Eventually the words turned into life-defining stories. Life-defining stories turned into her reality. Such is the power of language.
The Power of Language Patterns
Words: “I am not fat, I am just big boned.”
Stories: “I hate my body. I need to exercise even more. But then nothing really ever works for me. Maybe there is a new diet I can try. But what if that doesn’t work either. Why do other girls have it so much easier? I hate my body.”
Reality: Body image issues / Eating disorders
Another client’s mother repeatedly told him when he was young, “You’re not God’s gift to women” (Thanks for that one, Mom). He believed her, saw himself as inferior, and created a complex about it. Another example of the power of language to affect our reality.
Words: “You’re not God’s gift to women.”
Stories: “I am such a loser. How could anyone really like me? What can I do to make people like me? But I’ll never be able to keep them.”
Reality: Low self-esteem, Depression
Words to Stories. Stories to Realities.
Enter Conflict Language
Over the past ten years I have coached many people from all around the world. People from all walks of life, spanning a wide range of social and economic backgrounds. Each of my clients’ stories are unique, yet there are similar patterns to them that hint at the immense power of language. Patterns in the way they were telling their stories. Patterns in their choice of words. Patterns in their language.
“Words to Stories. Stories to Realities.”
The more I focused in on what they were saying, line by line, the more dots I connected. So much so I could anticipate how the person would describe what happened before they actually did. Here’s a few examples:
“I don’t want to always feel like such a failure.”
“She won’t let me do what I really want to do.”
“Maybe I could put in some more effort at work.”
At Procabulary, we call this type of speech Conflict Language—a language unintentionally designed to thwart goals, sabotage relationships and confuse ourselves into unnecessary pain.
Translations and Architect Language
So what do we do with Conflict Language and Conflict Stories? First we identify the key Conflict Language words and start making adjustments. We call these adjustments “Translations.”
With stressful sentences like “I don’t want to always feel like such a failure”, we replace the “don’t” with a “do” and move away from the undesired outcome and towards what we want. “I don’t want to always feel like such a failure” turns into “I do want to feel secure and successful.” This seemingly simple translation does a tremendous amount for someone’s psychological and emotional well-being by harnessing the power of language.
Similarly, “She won’t let me do what I really want to do” translates into “I won’t let me do what I really want to do”. It turns out I do have some power in this situation. Ouch.
“Maybe I could put in some more effort at work”. Take out the “maybe”, “could”, and “some” and we are left with a much more solid statement. “I can put in more effort in work.” It’s either deliberation and procrastination or decisiveness and action.
The opposite of Conflict Language is Architect Language that helps people focus on their goals and positive outcomes, reminds them that they are in control of their personal stories, while helping them to be more secure and confident in their decision making process. This is a positive use of the power of language.
Bonus Exercise: “Should Detox”
“Should” is a very interesting word. It’s famous for its ability to create excess pressure and guilt. Consider doing a Should Detox to shift begin positively harnessing the power of your language:
STEP 1. Pick something simple that you would like to do more of in your day-to-day life. Something that you could easily guilt or stress yourself about. It could be meditating, exercising, changing your diet or taking singing lessons.
For this example we’ll use meditating, “I should meditate more.”
“I should meditate more.” Pause and observe. How does it feel to say that? Make a mental note.
STEP 2. Replace “should” with “could”.
“I could meditate more.” Most people raise their eyebrows and nod their head a little with the “could” sentence.
STEP 3. Replace “could” with “can”.
“I can meditate more.” This is usually a tangible leap in attitude and energy.
STEP 4. Replace “can” with “excited to”.
“I am excited to meditate more.” By now most people are smiling and thinking about when they can get in a session.
STEP 5. And finally we add a “because” on the end of the sentence for reasons and an extra motivational boost to really tap into the power of language.
“I am excited to meditate more because when I do I am much more relaxed and focused.”
Now it’s your turn. It’s fun.
I should ____________________ more. Pause and observe
I could ____________________ more. Pause and observe
I can ____________________ more. Pause and observe
I am excited to ____________________ more. Pause and observe
I am excited to ____________________ more because _____________(reason)_____________. Pause and observe
This is a great exercise to tap into the power of language and go from reluctance and regret to enthusiasm and action. It’s also a great drill to demonstrate the imaginative, emotional, and physiological effects of the power that language has on all of us. “Should” to “could”. “Could” to “can”. “Can” to “excited to”. Then add a “because”. Simple and effective.
Only the Beginning
Procabulary gives us an edge through the power of language. An edge over the seemingly trivial thoughts that can, and usually do, add up to big problems. Muhammad Ali has a great quote about this, “It’s not the mountain that we climb that wears us out. It’s the pebble in our shoe.”
“It’s not the mountain that we climb that wears us out. It’s the pebble in our shoe.”
Those pebbles in our shoes are made of Conflict Language. Countless instances of “don’t”, “can’t”, and “haven’t”; constantly giving up our power by blaming others and relentless indecision. These things cause epic amounts of pain for ourselves, our loved ones and the world around us.
If you have old patterns and feelings that you would love to translate into something positive and empowering, then check out Procabulary’s Core Language Upgrade online training course. It’s packed full of information, techniques and examples that will help you translate any conflict story like an architect. Our customers love it and so will you.
It’s time to start authoring our stories consciously. It’s time to speak like a pro.
Ready to upgrade your self-confidence, your language and your life? Then visit:
About The Author
Mark England has been studying methods and techniques for personal empowerment for the last decade. He has a Masters degree in international education, is an NLP Master Practitioner, and is the Founder of Procabulary. In his spare time Mark likes to travel, dance, practice martial arts, and have fun.