Such negative language
The world is irritating me at the moment.
From politics to Facebook, TV to business, there is an air of indifference and acceptance that the UK is quite frankly ridiculous. That it ‘Is what it is’.
At the same time, I have become acutely aware of the slip into negative language being used day to day. Now I don’t mean that the population of the UK is roaming around whining and bemoaning their lives (although…).
No, I mean the general negative language – a reduction in please and thank you, excuse me, after you. People seem very wrapped up in their own little worlds and seem to have forgotten the power of positivity in their talk!
We are trying really hard to use positive language in our house this week and it actually makes us all feel happier. We have decided to try to rephrase requests positively so instead of ‘Don’t leave your shoes there,’ we have gone for ‘Please put your shoes in the box, thanks.’ We decided we all feel less ‘got at’ as a result and so far all requests have been carried out with a smile.
I was indulging my guilty pleasure of watching Emergency Services TV programmes. A young police officer bemoaned the lack of respect for the police and indeed this was more than evident in the programme. But again, I noticed that the police use very negative language ‘Don’t kick me,’ ‘Stop shouting at me,’ ‘Shut up.’
I agree that clear instructions and an air of authority are important but if someone tells me to shut up I’m afraid my respect for them will rapidly diminish. I wondered whether stating actions would be just as effective. For example ‘you’re kicking me,’ or ‘I would prefer if you talked’ would be more effective?
Here’s the science bit!
Science tells us that positive language can literally change your brain. Positive words like “happiness,” “love” and “joy” strengthen the area of the brain called the frontal lobes. And this, in turn, promotes cognitive development and function. In simple terms, hearing and using positive language can make you feel physically, mentally and emotionally happier.
As we often see with our children who have lived in negative or neglectful circumstances, negative language can block the brain’s ability to de-stress . In their book, Words Can Change your Brain, Newberg and Waldman note that even a single negative word can increase the activity in our amygdala. That’s the primitive fight and flight part of the brain. In turn, this releases dozens of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters, which interrupt the functioning of our brains.
This is a particular problem in education as logic, reason, and language become impaired at that point – all necessary for learning and regulation.
You can’t trick your brain
Our brains are clever beasts. Even phrases that we think are positive, our brain (which has a naturally negative bias, by the way), subconsciously sabotages and then throws up problems and complaints, and reasons to procrastinate – for both the speaker and listener.
Here is an example…
No problem – brain says ‘Bet there is!’
I’m exhausted – ‘Can’t do this, give up, meh’
I forgot – ‘I am a bad person’
I missed you – ‘I have had such a bad time, it has been awful’
Or can you…
So how do we trick our grey matter into positivity? Look at this slight shift…
Definitely! – only positive connotations in comparison to ‘No problem’
I need to rest – this implies a temporary state and problem solving rather that ‘I’m exhausted’ which is a much longer term problem!
Instead of saying ‘I forgot’ try ‘I will set a reminder’. This focusses on a solution and positive outcome in the future.
While it is lovely to know you have been missed, it is nicer to hear ‘It is great to see you!’ which focusses on the here and now, on happiness.
As a parent, I hate it when my child says ‘No’. But he will only stop saying it when I do. So for the rest of the week, I am going to continue to rephrase my language.
I have a feeling I’m going to need these phrases a lot;
A family favourite – No, you can’t have three bags of crisps – Crisps are not good for you, just one pack is enough for a treat.
The only time they want to feed the pets – No, the rabbit does not want to eat a sausage– Rabbits eat vegetables, let’s see if we have something for them.
The perennial – No, you can’t go on your computer – Computer time is over for today
And, no weekend would be withouth – No, I am not getting up at 6am, it’s Sunday! – Wait for the alarm to go off.
I wonder who will crack first?