The Words We Use Can Shape The Feelings We Have Approach

There are many views on how we shape our feelings. Some say that our attitude plays a big part. Some call this our mindset or mental model. We then interpret our experiences through this filter.

Another view focuses on the words or metaphors we use to describe situations. For example: Do we label something as a challenge or as a problem? Bearing this in mind, it can be useful to remember that:

The words we use can shape the feelings we have.

Many articles have been written about how the words we use can produce different emotional responses. These also highlight how people can learn positive scripts or negative scripts. Here are some examples.

Person A may get news they have cancer and say: “I have reframed this as a project.” Person B may say: “I have defined this as a battle.”

Person A may say: “This is a challenge.” Person B may say: “This is a problem.”

Person A may say: “I want to build on my strengths and tackle areas for improvement.” Person B may say: “I need to focus on my weaknesses.”

The language we use can also affect how we perceive people and situations. It can also influence how we behave. One mediator explained this in the following way.

“My work involves helping people: a) to build on what they have in common; b) to find ways to manage any differences. I use the word differences rather than conflicts.

“Building on what they have in common, we aim to get some early successes. This helps to build confidence. We then help them to find healthy ways to manage any differences.”

Let’s return to your own life and work. How do you phrase things in certain ways to shape your feelings? If you wish, try answering some of the following questions.

What are some of the positive phrases you use to describe situations and shape your feelings?

What can you do to try to phrase things in a positive way when faced by challenging situations?

How can you continue to phrase things in a positive way in your life and work?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to complete the following sentences.

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