Thumbs Up, Thumbs DownWhen you listen to others’ conversations, it’s amazing how much negative content there is. Many people use pessimistic, sometimes downright mean words as a matter of course. They complain. They express worry constantly. They judge and criticize. You can do better than that. In fact you need to if you’re going to be happy and have happy relationships. If your words are full of bile, your thoughts must be just as dark. What’s the point in that? If you’re thinking and speaking about bad things all day, you will be miserable. And you don’t need to be. Words and thoughts are things we can choose. They’re among the few things we have control over so get a handle on them now.

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Observe the Negative

Let’s start with our words. Observe yourself for a full day without judgment and mentally record the number of times you say, “no,” “can’t,” “don’t,” “won’t.” Add to that the number of times you swear or use even minor expletives (like “Darn it!”). Add to that the number of times you think or say something bad about yourself, another person, or a situation. Add to that the number of times you complain or say anything not positive on any of your social media accounts. Be aware of what you’re thinking and saying.

Express What Is

Now consider changing your language from negative to positive. It’s not easy if you’re in the habit of using negative words but with practice and awareness, you will form a good habit of using positive language. For the most part, changing the words we use means changing our focus, which then changes our thoughts.

Rather than expressing what’s not working, not happening, not right, or not nice, focus on and express what is working, what is happening, what is right, and what is nice. Leave the negative unexpressed. Or, if nothing comes to mind along these lines, focus on what you want. You may not have it, but just thinking about and saying what you want as opposed to what you don’t want is a step toward positivity and eliminating the negative.

Stay in the Now

Speaking in the present tense is a good way to exude positivity and optimism. When you use the past or future tense too often, you sound passive because you’re only talking about what’s happened or what might happen. If you speak in the present tense, it forces you to say what you’re doing or what’s going on right now. It’s very active and it keeps you in the present moment. For example, imagine someone telling you, “I will call you later” versus “I am going to call you this afternoon.” We’ve changed “I will” to “I am” and also made “later” much more specific. Do you see how those changes make the speaker sound more friendly and more sure of themselves, and how their words provide assurance to you that you’ll indeed get a call? You do the same. Speak in the present tense and be specific.

Be Direct

Always be as direct as possible. When we say words like “maybe” or “we’ll see” we sound wishy-washy and noncommittal. As a result, people can’t fully trust us. When we use too many words, we confuse people. William Penn said it well, “Speak properly, and in as few words as you can, but always plainly; for the end of speech is not ostentation, but to be understood.” If you are clear and direct when you speak, people will understand and trust you and this can only improve your relationships.

Go from Negative to Positive

Use positive language as opposed to negative language. Say what you want versus what you don’t want. For example, instead of saying “Don’t yell indoors.” Say, “Please use your indoor voice.” Or instead of saying “That’s the wrong way to wrap that present.” Say, “How about wrapping it this way.” Here are some positive reframes on common negative phrases:

I don’t…                                I do…

I’m not…                               I am…

It won’t work.                      I can…

I don’t care.                           I like…

I can’t.                                    I can…

I don’t do it that way.          I like to…

I don’t want…                      I want…

You’re wrong.                      I believe… or I think…

But…                                      And…

Never…                                 Always…

Don’t forget…                      Remember…

I’ll try…                                 I will…

Maybe.                                   Yes.

I’m sorry.                              Thank you.

You can probably think of more. When you do, think about what the positively reframed phrase would be. Use these next time you’re hankering to say something negative.

 

 

 

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