It's an eye-opener to realize that many of the ways we express ourselves use disempowering rather than empowering language. The differences may feel subtle; however, the change in energy is noticeable.
A small change in language can initiate a whole new attitude. When you choose “I want to” over “I need to”, you’ll experience an energy shift and an increase in enthusiasm. You may also see more cooperation and less resistance from your kids with this approach.
Disempowering language is draining and heavy. It can have the edginess of criticism and judgment. It often leaves us feeling guilty or ashamed, and feeling like a victim. Empowering language is inviting, and offers choice, opportunity and possibility.
Dan Craft, a life coach and therapist, offers this summary: “Language, as our expression of thoughts and feelings, has the power to transform. It’s inextricably linked to our view of reality… This means that, just by changing our language, we can move from playing the victim to having choices, from feeling powerless to being in control of our life, from fear to love. And we can move into action.”
Try these on for size and see if you can feel the difference in the energy.
DON'T : Don't leave your jacket on the floor. Please hang up your jacket.
TRY : I'm going to try to meditate. I'm going to practice meditating.
SHOULD : I really should make a list to keep track of things.
I plan to make a list.
OUGHT : You ought to eat more vegetables. What if you were to eat one extra bite of vegetables?
HAVE TO : I have to do 30 minutes of writing a day. I want to write for 30 minutes a day.
NEVER : You never put your dirty clothes in the laundry. Sometimes your dirty clothes are on the floor.
OR Dirty clothes will be washed when they're in the hamper.
ALWAYS : You're always late getting ready for school. Mornings have been difficult lately.
MUST : I must exercise every morning. I choose to exercise in the morning.
Those capitalized words can trigger defensiveness and resistance. You certainly see it in your kids. Notice your reactions to your own self-talk, too. Does your language encourage you to take action, or does it make those actions feel burdensome? Are you using language that motivates or the language of obligation?
Empowering language indicates intention and desire. Disempowering language drains your energy and makes you dread what's in front of you, waiting to be accomplished. Your words are POWERful. Choose to make them emPOWERing.
Fern Weis is a certified life coach who learned that caring and good intentions are not enough in parenting. In fact, they are often the problem! Fern supports parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, including addiction recovery. She helps parents release guilt, end enabling and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life's challenges. Her articles are featured in Thrive Global, Medium, Motherly, The Teen Mentor, and Bergen County Moms.
Learn more about coaching and classes at www.fernweis.com. And then download your free guide, "Five Powerful Steps to Get Your Teen to Talk." For information on Family Recovery programs, visit www.familyrecoverypartners.com.