Self-help guru Dale Carnegie was once asked what was the most important lesson he ever learned in life. His answer: “By far, the most vital lesson I have ever learned is the importance of what we think.” Science wholeheartedly agrees. Research has found that our thoughts – particularly on how we perceive external events – are one of the strongest indicators of happiness. So it follows that kind, encouraging “self-talk” leads to a positive outlook on life in general.
So how do we influence our thoughts? By choosing the right words. According to a host of research in the field of social psychology, making simple changes to everyday words can have a powerful effect on our feelings and behaviors. These five words and phrases can help bring mindful attention to how the words you use everyday can influence your life – in a positive way.
Using the word “some” instead of “all” or “none” has the power to put situations into perspective and cut down on generalizations.
FOR EXAMPLE: “Some things aren’t going my way at the moment” sounds a lot more manageable than “nothing is working out for me this week.”
Another handy substitution trick: using “and” instead of “but” can open up a dialogue and cut out unnecessary conflict.
FOR EXAMPLE: “I agree with a lot of what you are saying AND I wonder if we could examine this particular point” gives you a window for feedback and clarification, while making the person you’re speaking to feel valued and heard.
Skillful use of the word “no” can foster both personal fulfilment and better relationships with the people around you – it’s all about finding the yes-no balance.
FOR EXAMPLE: Saying “no” to an engagement that’s not right for you shows that you value your own time and have a strong sense of self. Remember, saying “no” to one thing always means saying “yes” to something else – freeing up time and emotional bandwidth to engage in positive, fulfilling activities with the right people.
4. “THANK YOU”
These two little words can have an instant positive effect on your life – and the lives of the people around you. By appreciating the good things in life and voicing that gratitude, you’re bringing an optimistic attitude to the forefront of your mind. Similarly, accepting a well-intentioned compliment with a simple “thank you” can help positive words sink into your self-conscious – instantly boosting your self-esteem.
FOR EXAMPLE: Send a thank you note (or SMS) to a friend who did something nice for you this week. You’ll feel great and so will your friend.
5. “I’M SORRY”
This is another big one for the important interpersonal relationships in your life. By taking responsibility for your own transgressions or expressing empathy for someone else’s situation, you’re putting your own ego aside to connect with another person.
FOR EXAMPLE: The standard “I’m sorry for…” is pretty easy to grasp, but showing genuine empathy can be somewhat trickier. Listening to a coworker’s story and saying something like, “I’m sorry you had such a hard meeting. That sounds really frustrating” can invoke positive feelings and foster goodwill – for both you and your teammate.