How to Get More Respect through Language

Why Focus on Language

A while ago, I started working on changing the language I use. As you may have heard, the language we use will shape how we think. I’m not going to go so far as some people have, which was to say that “if you eliminate the word from a vocabulary, people would never think of it again.” Instead, I worked on changing things to a more positive spin, or to gain more control over my thoughts. As another quote says “Careful with your thoughts, as thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become character, and character becomes destiny.” Heavy.

Stop Apologizing

I started smaller. Sorry. Canadians have a reputation for apologizing a lot, and it was particularly true in my case. If someone bumped into me or stepped on my foot, I would apologize to them. In other words, sorry.. for being in your way? I guess? This actually wasn't very easy to break. 

I went on an apology ban: No apologizing allowed. There were three criteria that had to be passed for breaking the ban: 

  1. It was clearly my fault, 
  2. I cared about the person, and 
  3. Not apologizing would result in damage to the relationship. 

Pass all three, and I would apologize. If I was unclear about 2) and 3) being true, but 1) was false, I might bite the bullet for the sake of the relationship.

Awkward Transitions

I probably came off as rude, or dickish. It was worth it. I needed to get more control over myself because if you can't control yourself, what can you control? Once I was able to silence the compulsive, meaningless apologizing, I regained control to use the word how I wanted and when I wanted. Apologize for everything and your apologies mean nothing. Don't take this last bit too far. Just keep them genuine.

Why Bother?

Controlling when you apologize may seem small or pointless. It isn't. Our words truly do change our perspective of ourselves and the world around us. Let’s take a look at two more impactful words that matter more: “try” and “just.” 

Just "Try" It

“Try” implies a significant chance of failure. If you are saying “I’ll try to learn French,” there is clearly a difference from the statement “I will learn French.” If someone asks you to do something and you know you can easily do it for them, would you say “I’ll try” or simply “sure”? 

Put yourself to the test. Catching yourself every time you're about to say “try” in regarding yourself and a task. Reframe it to something more certain by removing that pesky word. The word “try” also gives you that little bit of emotional/psychological cushion. If I fail, well... I tried. If someone gets mad at you, you can say “I tried.” It’s a weaker statement that allows you to feel alright if things don't work out, but also give you the room to be lazy. Like Parkinson’s Law, it warps the effort you'll put in. It will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

To be "Just"

Likewise with the word “just.” It also weakens what you're attempting to say. I'm not talking about  “justice,” only when used to describe your actions. If someone says “what're you doing” and you say “I'm just writing an essay,” it downplays it. “I’m writing an essay” doesn’t belittle the fact that you’re doing the work. 

To get a better perspective, think of the situation when someone says “just” before something amazing. “I'm just riding on football-field-sized yacht with dozens of models.” What would most of us respond to that? “Pff, ‘just'” mocking the attempt to downplay what’s being done or accomplished. “Oh, Jim? He's nothing special, he's just the guy who cured cancer” is a serious attempt at downplaying the achievement. 

Likewise, using it in everyday statements makes you come off as more meek than is necessary. Be proud of whatever you’re doing, however mundane. If you aren't proud, maybe you should reconsider whether it's worth doing. 

In Closing

Eliminate and control the use of these words and see how it affects your perspective, actions, and how others perceive you. Be more certain when stating your opinions and actions. 

If you aren’t be certain of them, who will be?

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