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7 Things Not to Say, and 7 Things to Start Saying

7 Things Not to Say, and 7 Things to Start Saying

Are you aware just how much impact the words you use on a daily basis have on your mood and your life in general?

Have you noticed the type of language you use? Not just verbally, but within your inner thoughts as well?

Language is a very powerful tool when it comes to mood control—both for ourselves and for those around us. It really can make the difference between a happy day and a stressful day, and below, I’ll give you some examples at to why this is.

As with many things, the first step is awareness; most people are blissfully unaware of how they speak, both internally and externally, so make a start by paying extra attention to what you’re saying both mentally, and aloud. Consider whether you’re using positive language or negative language. Are you really aware of exactly what you’re saying and how you’re phrasing your words?

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I’ve spent some time studying quantum linguistics, and there are a few common phrases that people use without realising just how negative they are. And when we think negatively, guess what? The negative thoughts spiral into negative actions, which then tun into real-life situations and problems. If we can nip those negative thoughts in the bud, we can save ourselves a whole lot of pain in the long run.

Here are 7 useless phrases to leave behind, and 7 useful phrases to start saying so you can start using language to your advantage!

7 Things to Avoid Saying

1. “I can’t…”

“Can’t” is a debilitating word that puts up a barrier between you and your goals—it’s like you’ve almost failed before you’ve begun. Someone very wise once said to me that there’s no such word as “can’t”. That’s a great way to look at things; give yourself a chance for success by ditching the word completely.

2. “I’ll try”

Have you ever “tried” to stand up. Try it now. Try to stand up. Did you do it? No, because it’s not possible to “try” and do something. When we say “I’ll try”, what we’re really saying is that we’re not ready to commit. As Yoda from Star Wars once said: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

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3. “I wish I didn’t have to…”

Otherwise known as moaning. No one likes to listen to someone groan on, and plus, it’s pointless to do so. If you don’t like something, then take action and change your situation. Otherwise, you might as well get on with life with a smile on your face!

4. “I should…”

The word “should” is inherently negative. “Should” implies a lose: lose situation and it’s just not conducive to positive outcomes in life. It’s a form of criticism, and it’s best left out of your everyday language. Instead of beating yourself up for what you should have done, focus on what you have the power to change.

5. “I need…”

How often do you proclaim a “need” for something, versus how often you genuinely need it? The word “need” creates an unhealthy dependency. The next time you hear yourself say this, have a re-think to determine if you really need what you’re talking about. If you don’t, then let go and minimize any negativity.

6. Pessimistic greetings like “Not bad” or “could be worse.”

I hear this all the time! So many people feel the need to buy into these common phrases without even thinking about what they are saying. They are so negative! Why not say something positive, or at least be honest? (There’s nothing worse than saying you’re “great” all the time if that’s not how you really feel.)

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7. “Never.”

The word “never” creates immediate restrictions on your life, and when we say that word, it’s very rarely an accurate reflection of the choices that are available to us. It closes our mind to solutions and creates unnecessary limits. Decide today to never say never again!

7 Things to Start Saying

1. “YES!”

Entrepreneur Richard Branson claims that making a conscious decision to say “yes” to more things is one of his secrets for success. Next time your natural instinct is to say no, try saying yes instead. Open your mind to a whole new world of possibilities and watch as your life suddenly becomes much more interesting.

2. “I’m lucky / grateful…”

It’s been proven that gratitude can relieve symptoms of depression and unhappiness. Before I go to sleep, I like to remind myself of 3 things each day that I’m grateful for, or lucky to have in my life. This is a nice way to go to bed with positive thoughts instead of being kept awake by worries or fears.

3. “I Will.”

This is a great replacement for “I’ll try”. Consider for a moment how much more powerful the words “I will” are, compared to “I’ll try”. By saying “I will”, you’re really committing to something and your goals suddenly feel possible. Don’t worry too much about whether you actually reach the goals or not—this is about you setting yourself up for success, not failure.

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4. “What if?”

This is a great alternative to words like “never” or “impossible”. Instead of limiting us, the phrase “what if?” creates possibility. It encourages solution-oriented thinking, which helps us to solve problems. The next time you feel as though a situation is hopeless, try asking yourself “what if?” and see what solutions pop up.

5. Positive Greetings such as “I’m well.”

Instead of saying “not bad” or “could be worse” when someone asks you how you are, try a simple “I’m well, thankyou” instead. Alternately, if you’re not having a great day, be honest but with a positive spin—“I’m not having the best day but I’m sure tomorrow will be better.”

6. Positive instructions such as “Remember to…”

If I said to you “Don’t think about a pink elephant” right now what did you just think of?  A pink elephant, right? So we’re actually thinking about the very thing we want to avoid. This can be really dangerous when we use instructions such as “don’t forget to pay the bills today” because all our brain hears is “forget to pay the bills!” If we flip our language so it’s positive, however, we get much better results. If you want to remember something, then tell yourself just that, instead of what you don’t want to do.

7. “Things could be worse…”

The next time you find yourself in a challenging situation, try re-framing your problem by comparing it to something worse. This is a great way to minimise the size of your problems. When we put things into context, we can gain perspective and suddenly our problems don’t feel as bad.

More by this author

Zoe B

A strategist, coach and blogger who shows people how to stop what isn't working for them in life and to start to plan the life they really want.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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