Language is a really powerful tool; so powerful that we often completely underestimate the power it can have in our lives. Yes – language facilitates communication and collaboration between individuals and large groups alike, but it works at a much deeper level than just facilitating the co-ordination of our activities.
To dig a little deeper into the power of language, let’s take a look at the power of poetry. Whether that be in the form of spoken word, music or a good book, language used in a particular way has the power to quite literally change our physiology and our corresponding mental state. Think back to a time when you were driving in your car on a hot summers day with your iTunes playing random tracks from your collection. All of a sudden a song comes on that you haven’t heard in years; upon hearing the notes play out and the words come to life in that moment in your own little corner of the World, you’re whisked back to a distant memory of a time long ago. You’re right back in that place, with those people, hearing, smelling and feeling all the same things you did when the memory was first formed.
Wow – did you just travel back in time? Well, I guess you kinda just did.
The hairs stand up on the back of your neck, you start to feel a deep connection to the past, and you literally start to re-live the memory that has once again been conjured. You may start to sweat, have heart palpitations or begin feeling a deep sense of longing for something – or someone – that was once in your life. Just hearing the music and the words has transported you back to a World that once was; a powerful vehicle taking you racing back through time, and invoking a physiological response that causes a whole set of emotions, feelings and puts you in a totally different state than you were in moments before.
I use this example to illustrate how powerful language is; and how quickly it’s effects can take hold of every aspect of your function – physiological and psychological.
So let’s take this one step further – have you ever considered how the language you use day to day is affecting you? Both the language you use when communicating with others, and the language you use in your self-talk affect you deeply too. What’s more, if you’re not careful, the language used by other people (whether that’s talking to friends and colleagues or listening to the news on the radio) will also affect you in ways that you may not even be consciously aware of.
The subliminal effect that language has on us is profound, and we it’s something we all need to be acutely aware of in a World so awash with content. Everywhere you look there’s a piece of copy, a video or some sort of advert. Make no mistake, the marketing agencies that design devise ad campaigns know all about the power of language and subliminal messaging – there are even laws against it and it was used extensively in TV broadcasts when the technology was first released.. maybe it still is today, and in fact it is – it’s used in every advert you see or hear; everyone who want to convince you to buy a product or pay for their service.
The power of language is a science that high level marketers understand and master; can you afford to fall victim of these techniques without understanding what’s going on behind the scenes? Are your thoughts your own? Do you have the mental fortitude to tell the difference? This is the skill that we should all focus on developing – the knowledge of the techniques and the science behind them so that we don’t get carried away in the tidal wave of manipulated human cognition.
A great example of this is the speakers who pitch at the events I attend. They use NLP (neurolinguistic programming) – language – to take the audience on a very clever journey that drastically increases their closing rate when it comes to asking for the sale at the end of the talk. The point I’m drilling home is that language is powerful, and when you understand how it works, it not only empowers you to get better results from your life, but to also protect yourself and be aware of the potential manipulation of others.
Now that I am aware of these techniques, I still go through the same cognitive journey as the rest of the audience but there’s one key difference; I know I’m on the journey, and that self-awareness and understanding of the process gives me the advantage of both worlds – going where the speaker wants me to go so I can get the benefit from being in that mental state, but also being aware that it’s a means to an end, and that although it’s okay to go on the emotional journey, the facts still need to be assessed on their own merit and using my logic processor – the neocortex. See my other post on the different parts of the brain and how they work together and against each other HERE.
The most important part of this though is how you talk to yourself. If language used by marketers and by others can have such a profound effect on your mental and physical state, then what about the language you use when you’re talking to yourself in your head?
“Don’t believe a thought you think”
– T. Harv Eker
This is such a great quote; mindfulness is the practice of becoming more consciously aware of your thoughts, and developing the ability to examine and evaluate them to see if they are in line with your core values, and ultimately if they serve you or harm you. A lot of our thoughts don’t come from us – think about the marketing example explained above – and it’s a skill to be able to discern which thoughts are our own and which have been cleverly programmed and put there.
Most people are very hard on themselves, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself – if I were speaking to a friend who was in the same position as I currently am, going through the same thing, then would I speak to them in the same way as I am currently speaking to myself? I bet you wouldn’t! We tend to be overly harsh when evaluating ourselves to the point where the language we use can be downright derogatory! You would never speak to a friend, colleague or family member in that way, so why is it okay to speak to yourself in that way?
The thing is, your brain will provide an answer to any question you ask it – if you ask it a question like ‘why am I such an idiot?’, then your brain will come up with an answer of equal quality – ‘because you are a moron who doesn’t try hard enough at anything you do and you are intelligent enough to achieve your goals’. But think about the language used in the question you asked – what was the likelihood of receiving a positive answer to that type of question? Pretty slim. Change the language and you change everything – if instead you were to ask, ‘how can I develop my skills to do this better?’, then your brain will provide an answer of equal quality – ‘you can attend this course/seminar on the subject and pay for mentorship from someone who’s already achieved success in this field’.
Wow, a bit different, huh?
Can you see how now it would be pretty difficult for your brain to come up with a negative answer to the question you asked of yourself? You see the quality of the language in the question is everything.
Set yourself up to succeed rather than setting yourself up to fail is as simple as being aware of, and gaining control over, the language you use with yourself and others. Use better language and you’ll get better results.
The final thing to mention is that your mind doesn’t know the difference between the things it processes that are real, and the things you imagine. Did you know you can build muscle just by lifting weights consistently in your mind? The power of the mind never ceases to amaze… if you’re allowing persistently negative thoughts to permeate your day then you’re mind is going to assimilate that negativity and manifest it in your reality – it starts with your emotional state, which affects your decisions, which affects your actions, which affects your results. Poor results are always the result of poor choices, and you’re almost guaranteed to make poor choices if your working from a negative emotional state. This is why positive thought and visualisation can be so powerful when practiced consistently – they re-train your brain to serve you better, and focus your energy on the things you want rather than the things you don’t want.
“Where focus goes, energy flows, and results show”
– Tony Robbins
The power of language cannot be overstated – it’s understood and used by world leaders, celebrities and successful entrepreneurs the World over, and can have so much power in shaping our lives.
How are you letting the language you use shape yours? Time to re-evaluate.