How to Change Your Language – and Change Your Mind

How to Change Your Language - and Change Your Mind

If you’re a writer, or if you’ve been writing content for any amount of time, you already know that the power of your words highly impacts your readers. Chosen consciously, the right words can open minds that were closed and inspire people to take action.

But do you use that same power on yourself?

The words you choose to describe your situation, your abilities, and your circumstances directly impact the results you get – yet far too many of us have more skill choosing negative words than positive ones.

Negative words equal negative results.

But what if you could turn that around? What if you make your mind do a 180 turn, and focus on the power of positive language? What would happen if you consciously chose different words to think about?

Amazing things, my friend. Keep reading.

The Psychological Power of Framing

In psychological terms, the “framing effect” is a cognitive bias that causes people to react to a choice depending on how it has been presented, or “framed”. The frame influences how people feel about the choice and situation, and this feeling guides their action.

That’s why the threat of loss is such a powerful motivator. If you’re told, “You’ll lose this discount forever if you don’t buy today,” it seems risky not to act, given that negative frame.

But if you’re told, “Here’s a one-day discount that you can use if you’d like,” you have a more neutral, even positive frame, and nothing feels risky. The downside, of course, is that the chance of you actually taking action on the discount drop substantially.

Marketers, politicians, and parents around the globe have known this for years: The way you frame the situation changes everything.

How We Self-Sabotage Through Framing Every Day

Listen to the average conversation of any person, and you’ll hear a lot of unconscious self-sabotage, usually communicated with self-depreciative laughter at the end.

Here’s a good example: “Public speaking? Are you kidding me? I could never do that. I’m terrible at speaking in front of groups!” (Cue laughter, just to drive home how ridiculous this idea seems.)

That, my friends, is a frame guaranteed to create failure.

The laughter frames the situation as not to be taken seriously, as does the question, “Are you kidding me?” It all becomes one big joke – “Surely you jest!”

A second frame is created because of, “I’m terrible at …”, which presupposes and implies that this is both a permanent state, and a very bad one at that.

With those two frames firmly surrounding the idea, it’s not surprising that a person like that would never succeed at public speaking. They’d never even try. In their mind, failure is guaranteed.

To be frank, frames like these are generally “covert contract” ways to tell people, “Back off. I don’t want to put the effort in, and I want you to act like this is just a tragic fact of life and not my choice. And I want you to do this without acknowledging this contract exists in the first place.”

Hence the “covert” part. You’re supposed to laugh, and say, “Yeah. It was just a crazy idea. Anyway, want to get some coffee?” rather than continue discussing the topic.

It’s also an effective way to covert-contract ourselves – saying something’s not possible so that we don’t even have to pursue the options we have in front of us.

But if we did, imagine how quickly life would begin to change

How to Change Your Frame At Any Time

Changing your mind is easy. Changing your mindset? Turning a negative frame into a positive one?

Well, it’s just as easy. Doing a 180 on your mind just takes a bit of conscious practice. Here are 3 simple steps to get you started.

  1. First Step: Watch Your Language
  2. When you speak – or even think about a situation – pay attention to the language you use to describe whatever it is you feel you can’t do.

    We’ll go with the language from the previous example:

    “Public speaking? I could never do that. I’m terrible at speaking in front of groups.”

  3. Second Step: Open Up Your Mind
  4. Now that you’re paying attention to the language you’ve used, open up your possibilities by changing your statements to more positive language.

    For example:

    Public speaking? I’ve never considered that seriously, but I certainly could. It might be interesting, and I’d certainly learn from the experience.

    That transforms the thought from something you can’t do and would never do into a positive opportunity to learn and grow.

  5. Third Step: Plant the Seed
  6. Now that you’ve re-framed the idea, plant a seed of hope based on a successful experience you’ve had in the past.

    For example, our formerly laughing friend might replace, “I’m terrible at speaking in front of groups, with, “I’m already comfortable talking to 5 people at a meeting, and those always go well. I suppose talking to 50 people isn’t all that different.”

    Now imagine that person saying that instead:

    “Public speaking sounds like it could be exciting to me. I’m already comfortable talking to 5 people at a meeting, I suppose working my way up to 50 people isn’t that different.”

    Do you see how that subtle shift in framing could change everything? A person could go from powerless to powerful in an instant. Any time they wanted to.

    That person could be you.

    Changing Your Frame Is Easier Than You Think

    Want to master changing your frame? Just get in the habit of replacing negative or fatalistic language with more positive alternatives. Each time you speak, pause and listen to what you just said.

    Reframe. It’s easy. In fact, you can try it today. Start by using these words in your everyday language:

    • I can…
    • I will…
    • I am able…
    • I choose…
    • I’m good at…

    You can’t get positive results with negative thinking. Take command of your frame, do a 180 on your mind… and anything becomes possible.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. This is not what I was expecting to read about today, but it’s a great article. I am totally guilty of self-sabotage and talking down to myself and I need to change that!

  2. Ainslie Hunter says:

    Hey James

    Have you heard of the work by Gabriele Oettingen? She developed a mental contrasting technique with a Framing Process called WOOP.

    In her work she found that when you develop a goal (or wish in her case) you should think of the outcome and the obstacle. Her studies found that when you were realistic about the obstacle you could create a better plan for what to do when the obstacle got in your way.

    Go look it up. I use it with my students with a lot of success.

    Ainslie

  3. Great article. I love digital marketing because its a blend of art and science. IT’s where Psychology and quantitative analysis get to mingle.

    The section about self-sabotage reminds me that we must try to think about our thoughts to get insight into our subconscious motivations. I ask myself, “Why did I say that?” , “What was I feeling and thinking when I communicated that?”

    I am also reminded of the cliche – There are two people, one thinks they can and one thinks they can’t and they are both right – It is difficult to seek a balance of being confident in what you can accomplish and realistic with your time management.

    I try not to write myself of and remind myself that I can accomplish anything if I put my mind, energy, and time into it. Great motivational article, keep em coming.

    Additionally, when it comes to public speaking, it reminds me about the psychology of shyness. It is counter intuitive to think that shy people are some of the most egotistical, but it also makes sense, because they overemphasize what everyone thinks of them, when in reality everyone is more concerned about themselves.

    It is also a self-fulfilling prophecy because when one focuses on assumptions of external perceptions they lose focus of their performance and falter, which was their fear to begin with.

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