Choosing Better Words
Growing up, my neighbor, Mrs. Hinton always said, “If you can’t say anything nice, it’s best not to say anything at all.” Words matter. Our tone and body language delivering our message also matters. Terre Short, author of The Words We Choose: Your Guide to How and Why Words Matter moves the dial up on this idea by suggesting 10 words that can get the boot in 2021.
“Choosing the right words has never been more important with racial injustice, and a struggle with truth and reality and a lack thereof, we’re more in tune with each other than before. 2021 has to be about word choices. By leaving diminishing words behind and choosing words that are more impactful and inspirational, we can change the outcome of 2021, creating a much more hopeful, proactive path forward.” — Terre Short
Here are her recommendations to craft a more certain 2021:
Transform “IF” to “When”. If is loaded with doubt. It may or may not happen. “When” brings a certainty to language that is in the future but will happen. To me, it feels like “if” is dependent on others and “when” is more within my control.
“Just” minimizes in a sentence. “Just a minute” makes waiting appear shorter than it really is. “I’m just” minimizes self that discounts the role you have in a situation. Drop just and fill your language with a more meaningful or powerful choice instead.
“Should.” We all need to stop “shoulding” on ourselves. Should implies that we don’t really want to. It drags our mental brightness down a notch. Try, “I get to” instead!
What language implies doubt? “I’m pretty sure I can meet you.” Are you sure or not sure? Why not swap out pretty with a statistical guess? “I’m 89% sure I’m going to make the deadline.” This naturally pushes the mind to think about how to raise the % to 100. Be creative in how you predict what you can and cannot do. You will believe whichever you choose.
“But” is a tricky sideswipe. “I like this, but I’d rather see that.” That “but” batted the first good part off the sentence and left us with a correction. Try using “and” instead. “And” opens the mind to more, where “but” eliminates our hearing a compliment by replacing it with only the negative.
How many phrases do you use to relinquish control in a situation? I’d love to do that but… It’s out of my hands… They will do what they are going to do. These phrases focus on what another is doing or not doing rather than engaging our thoughts on what we have control over. Keep the possible open with words, ideas and language that promotes what we do, change, and try.
Short offers advice in the language change, “It may result in a little stuttering and stopping yourself as you talk. Don’t be afraid to practice a pause. It slows you down. When you are intentional with your word choices, you abandon the minimizing and limiting of your potential and represent yourself as confident and certain. You can inspire others.”
I like the way these small changes open up a wider range of possibility and openness in conversation. Mrs. Hinton was right in encouraging kind speech and I can build on weeding out any diminishments that get in the way!
Based on Terre Short’s article, “10 words and phrases to stop saying in 2021”