The Way You Talk Is Holding You Back

It's pretty obvious that the way you talk shows something about how you think, it doesn't need repeating. But what's less obvious is that changing how you talk, in turn, changes how you think. See, who you are reflects on how you act, but this works both ways. It is the origins of "fake it 'till you make it" and "dress for the job you want, not for the job you have". It makes sense if you think about it, we have the most advanced verbal communication system of any animal, it is perhaps the trait we can credit the most for our intelligence. Language is an integral part of our lives ever since we are born, actually, even before that. It is language that allows us to transmit information reliably from generation to generation, advancing technology, medicine, and much more. In fact, it would be highly likely that you would have died shortly after birth had we not had the scientific advances that we do. So, if our language is so critical to us, why should we change it? And into what?


Far too often I hear people respond to criticism with anger or defense, this is wrong. Unless the criticism is highly unjust (which, by the way, isn't as often as you'd think) it's smart to accept it. It's very rare for people to judge you for absolutely no reason, therefore, it's safe to assume that the criticism you receive is honest feedback. This change in language requires a lot of vulnerability and it's not easy to implement but I put it first in the list for a reason. First and foremost, it creates a reputation of integrity for you and makes you stand out as a logical, accepting, and wholesome individual. Secondly, opening yourself up to it, perhaps ironically, lowers the rate of which you'll receive it because everyone makes mistakes, if you acknowledge them, it allows people to be able to forgive you. And third, why would you not want to improve yourself? Respond to criticism by apologizing for your behavior and removing the occasion for it in the future. It's a win-win in my books.

Say "Thank you" not "Sorry"

"Hold up! Didn't you just say to apologize more?" Yup! Integrate thank you's in your apology. "Thank you for correcting my behavior" for example. But this also refers to the tendency we have to apologize for those little things all the time. Like, when you and someone else start talking at the same time and the other person tells you to go ahead. Thank them for this, don't apologize for it. I can hear you asking why at this point. By saying "sorry" you are revealing you faults, if you saying it all the time, for everything, it conveys the message that you are apologizing for yourself, which, in turn, makes you seem like an incapable person.

Here are some examples of how to rephrase sorry to thank you

  • Remove "Sorry for being late" | Add "Thanks for waiting for me"

  • Remove "Sorry I'm a mess" | Add "I appreciate you believing in me"

  • Remove "Sorry I brought you down" | Add "Thank you for listening"

  • Remove "Sorry I wasted your time" | Add "Thank you for your patience"

  • Remove "Sorry for hurting you" | Add "Thank you for understanding"

Make the Instinctual Response "Yes", Instead of "No"

"No" used to be my immediate, instinctive response to everything, as a result, regret was a continual feeling, that and negativity. I holed myself up way too much. It went so far as to be my response to opinions too. I'd always find a problem with something. "Do you like this restaurant?" Me: "Meh, it's too dark" or "It needs better servers" or "The décor is so boring." There was always something. This instinctual response creates a habit of negative thinking where even small imperfections would make something bad. Well, nothing and no one is perfect. But nothing is the absolute worst it could be. The same way that saying no creates negativity, saying yes creates positivity. Make "Yes" the go-to response, and then change it later if you must.

Make Your Questions Action Questions

Taking action is the first step in any direction. Arguably, it comes even before the first step. What I'm trying to say is that it's crucial! The way to turn inaction into action is simply changing how your questions are structured. For example: Turn "Why is this happening to me?" into "How do I solve this?" or "What can I learn from this?". This is a fantastic way to lead your brain into a problem solving and growth mindset, which allows you to move forward in your life.

More examples of how to rephrase your questions are these:

  • "What's the point?" turns into "How can I make this worthwhile?"

  • "Why does it have to be so hard?" turns into "How can I find the easiest solution?"

  • "Why am I like this?" turns into "What do I want to be like?"

  • "Who am I?" turns into "What makes me who I am?"

Talk the Way You Would at the Dinner Table

There are some things you wouldn't say at the dinner table. Most often, it's because these topics start arguments when not everyone agrees. Now, I'm not saying to keep away from controversial topics as they are the topics that must be talked about the most, but rather, don't make them too prevalent in your life. If you get used to arguments, by extension you will become argumentative, maybe even combative. Aggression must never be a large portion of your life, prolonged anger always leads to hate. Take it from me. Instead, don't offend, convey your points objectively, and realize not everyone may agree. Take the easy approach. The English language has the most words of any language in the world, you are most definitely not limited to one way of saying what you want.

Don't Lose Patience

I just touched on this point, but I believe I must expand on it more. Losing patience, getting angry, shouting, must never be a large part of your life. Prolonged anger always leads to hate. Hate isn't good for anyone around you, especially you. In the long run, being angry first and foremost hurts you - everyone else can walk away from you, but you are stuck in the body you have. Instead, think about what you say, and how you say it before speaking. Take a couple seconds to organize your point of view and lay it out neatly and calmly, you will be praised for this. Furthermore, shouting never changed anything.

Say Less "Me"

Everyone hates that guy who can't stop talking about themselves. It creates the most boring conversations ever. People are going to want to steer far away from you and you will lose friends. Don't be that guy. Well, maybe you're not. Maybe, however, you're the person who listens to what the other person is saying and tries to relate to them. Unfortunately, that is also considered pretty annoying. People don't want to be interrupted just to hear that you had a similar experience to them, they want to let you know their experience, people love talking about themselves and you should let them. This is so that you can get a group of people who love being in your presence, big or small you decide. And isn't that what we all want?

Change Absolutes to Opportunities

There is very, very little in life that you are obligated to do. And even those things can be reframed. For example, everyone has to pay taxes, and everyone says: "ugh I have to pay taxes", but what would happen if you instead said "I get to help my community". Doesn't that sound so much better? Rephrase "I have to", "I must", "I should" to "I get to", "I prefer to", "I want to". Looking at your duties as opportunities rather than obstacles will enhance your perception of life, making it much less stressful. Take it from Psychology Today that making this change not only improves your outlook, but removes pressure from you and reduces negative emotions such as guilt, shame, and anxiety.

Change Negatives to Learning Paths

Very closely related to the above point is this, change negatives into learning paths. This is one of the many ways you can find positives in the negative. When you say "I can't" you are inadvertently bringing yourself down, like that task is beyond you. But where there's a will there is a way too, nothing is truly beyond you. So next time you're about to say "I can't" or "I wish I could", say this instead: "I still haven't learned how to do that" or "I haven't gotten around to being able to do it yet". Not only will this raise your self-worth but give you more power, mentally, you will believe in yourself more if you start talking like everything is doable, you just haven't learned how yet.

Bring People Up, Never Down

Bring people up. Perhaps I should make a whole other article on this point. As you come up and improve, and reach your potential, take people with you. If not for them then for you. Being kind, and altruistic has been studied extensively and it has been shown to have a "boomerang effect" and make us happier as a result. This is especially true when you are giving something away to someone. And compliments, praises, etc. are an infinite resource, which we can give away indefinitely, and which are invaluable. Vice versa, bringing someone down has the exact opposite effect. That's why you don't see a**holes enjoying life to the fullest.

. . .

Learning to change your language is an arduous and long process. But an ultimately crucial one because you can't expect yourself to be more positive, and be filled with hunger and drive to crush your goals if the way you speak brings you down, or anyone around you, or makes you an unpleasant person to be around. I argue that changing the way you speak is the first step in being able to take control of your life. So, learn this, implement it, and reap the fruits of your hard work. Become like people such as Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos who hold back at nothing because nothing feels impossible to them. And let me know, which of these are you already doing? And which ones do you need to work on more?


Hi, I'm Matthew, my mission is to spread knowledge about motivation, productivity, and enabling people to achieve the best that they can be! I have a vast background in psychology and a passion for self-improvement. I literally can't remember a time when I didn't have a psychology book in my hands. On top of that, I've traveled around the world from a very young age, and seen many different courses of life, forming friendships with highly successful people, as well as people who are willing to do anything to make ends meet. My own life took me down a roller coaster of highs and lows, and I'm forever grateful that I've been able to overcome everything it threw at me. Now I want to take the opportunity to give back, and help others learn tools and methods for becoming who they were born to be!

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