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3 Language Hacks To Promote Better Health

3 Language Hacks To Promote Better Health

Getting healthy is all about action, right? Move more, meditate, and eat better. But achieving your goals isn’t dictated entirely by your behavior. It’s influenced by your perspective, attitudes, confidence and commitment. And contrary to what you may think, these can be manipulated by something you’re probably not thinking too much about – your language.

The words we use can have a remarkable effect on behavior.

For example, clinical studies have shown that having patients engage in “change talk”, or talk that makes the case for why they should change, is associated with positive results that aren’t as apparent when someone else makes the case for them.

Take out the clinical setting and you’ve got a familiar scenario. Think back to the last time your mother, spouse, sister, friends, or colleagues lectured you about taking care of yourself, dumping that unhealthy relationship, or making that jump to a less stressful job. On a good day, you might call it annoying. And it probably has nothing on you making those same arguments to yourself.

Put simply – your words have power, and this can be leveraged to give your goals a needed boost. Below are three language tweaks to help you reach that healthier version of you.

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1. Switch from saying “I can’t” to “I don’t”

Goals often emerge in the form of wanting to break bad habits. Think: cutting out sugar, not drinking as much alcohol or not smoking those cigarettes. It’s about removing a behavior that was part of your identity, often tied to friendships, experiences, and your day-to-day routine.

When confronted with these once cherished items, we often utter the phrase “I can’t”.

Here’s a hypothetical example. You want to stop eating dessert, and someone at a party offers you a delectable-looking slice of cheesecake. What do you find yourself saying?

“Oh, I am sorry, I can’t.”

Then comes the expression of resignation, like you are already tired of yourself and your annoying, restrictive ways.

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Think about what this statement communicates: that you want to eat the dessert, but aren’t allowed to do so. And at some point, it will get harder and harder to deny yourself whatever it is that you want. It’s no wonder that so many attempts at breaking bad habits fail. Because we think – and talk – as if we are still in the mode of being that person that wants to engage in the behavior that we’re trying to quit.

Now consider a different scenario. When offered the cheesecake, instead of saying, “I can’t,” this is your response.

“I’m sorry, I don’t eat dessert.”

Hear the difference? One is focused on what you’re doing (in this example, restraining yourself from the full-fat goodness of a piece of cheesecake), and the other is about who you are as a person. In this last scenario, you aren’t holding yourself back. You are just the type of person that doesn’t eat dessert.

Studies show that whereas “I can’t” feels restrictive, “I don’t” is empowering and reframes your behavior as being consistent with your identity and values.

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The Hack

Identify a bad habit you’re trying to break – such as cutting out sugary foods, late-night snacks, excessive video gaming, or substance use. Try reframing yourself as someone that doesn’t partake in these activities, rather than someone who can’t partake. See how it feels to reconsider your action in this way, and then work on using the words “I don’t” instead of “I can’t” when tempted by whatever it is that you are trying to quit.

2.  Differentiate between what you “should do” versus what you “want” or “need” to do.

Now let’s consider that instead of trying to break a bad habit, you’re working to develop a new, healthy habit. In this scenario, you might speak in terms of what you “should” do. I should eat more vegetables. I should do more strength-training. I should take more time for myself. Etcetera. Etcetera.

“Should” doesn’t communicate a connection. It is rational, distant and may even convey reluctance and lack of desire. Something you “should do” is a behavior or action you would ideally do, in the best of circumstances, but maybe not now. In fact, probably not until way later or never. Because you just don’t care enough about it to put in the effort.

Contrast this with the phrase “I want to” or “I need to”. Studies show these words are associated with higher emotionality, which in this case signals a deeper connection to your goals and an urgency to pursue them.

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The Hack

When making goals, start to speak in terms of what you “want” or “need” to do, rather than what you “should” do. You may find that this brings your goals to the forefront. So instead of being something you’ll accomplish one day, you feel more motivated to pursue them now.

3. Use language that conveys a strong commitment to your goals

Whether it’s breaking a bad habit or developing a new healthy habit, commitment to your goals is crucial. Without commitment, you’ll find it easier to make up excuses or just let life get in the way of whatever it is that you want to accomplish.

How does this come out in language? People with a weak commitment to their goals may say they are “trying” to do something or “probably” will do something or even are just “thinking about” changing. Conversely, saying that you are “determined” or “dedicated” to changing your behavior resonates more strongly. The power of those words will likely influence not only the effort you put into pursuing your goals but how you navigate the inevitable challenges that you’ll face as you work towards a healthier lifestyle.

The Hack

Use words of determination and dedication to convey your commitment to your goals. Don’t just say them in your head – say them out loud. The experience of verbalizing your commitment will help you feel more empowered, connected and resilient in the face of setbacks.

Featured photo credit: Eli DeFaria via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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