Working with children who have behavioral disabilities has taught me how important it is to choose my words carefully. A word choice could take an atmosphere of calmness and turn it into complete chaos, sometimes resulting in violent outbursts. With social media becoming a major part of how we communicate, I believe it has created a platform where words can be used carelessly. We try to brush off harsh words with phrases like, “words will never hurt me”. But words do hurt. They cut deep and wound us. Our words have energy that is either positively charged or negatively charged. It is important for our relationships, especially with our children, to start paying attention to the words we use.

An interesting thing I’ve noticed is how some words that should be neutral have been polarized to being either positively or negatively charged. For example, the word “consequence” is a neutral word that can be negative or positive. Overall, when we hear the word “consequence” we think something negative is coming. We are much more comfortable with hearing, “If you don’t clean your room the consequence will be no ice cream” than hearing “If you clean your room the consequence is you will get ice cream”. The word “result” is another example of a neutral word. Unlike “consequence”, the word “result” is positively charged. When we hear our boss say she wants results we know she wants something good to happen. Regardless of who you work with or what you do, using words that are positively charged over words that are negatively charged will result in calmer communication and less defensiveness.

Finally, positively charged words will motive people, whereas negatively charged words will demotivate people. Tali Sharot’s Ted Talk discusses research that proves that our ability to learn from bad news and change behavior is optimal from about 30-50 years of age. Outside of those years, changes will most likely not happen with negative messaging. However, our ability to learn from good news and change behavior stays steady throughout our entire lives. The frustration you may be experiencing because your child’s behaviors are not changing may be a result of using negatively charged words. Below is a list of positively charged word replacements to use to help you get used to this idea. I encourage you to have a family conversation and discover words that feel negative to family members so that, together, you can find words that feel positive in nature and foster the desire to change.

In the area of activating change, you’re about to start winning!

 

NEGATIVELY CHARGED WORDS POSITIVELY CHARGED WORDS
CONSEQUENCE RESULT
TEST CHALLENGE
THAT’S WRONG TRY THAT AGAIN
DO OVER LOOKS GOOD JUST TIGHTEN THAT UP A BIT / REWORK THIS
TIME OUT TAKE A BREAK

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