The very words that we use to ourselves and others can often be an extremely accurate predictor of how successful we become in the various areas of our lives. In fact, learning to change how you use language is one of the single most powerful things you can do to enable you to take charge of your life.

We talk to ourselves non-stop every day. From the moment we get up in the morning to the time we drift off to sleep at night, our heads are full of continuous and incessant chat. Most of it we are unaware of, but it determines where our focus lies and decides how we are going to feel from moment to moment.

Then we have conversations with others and these conversations involve us trying to influence others to feel something, know something, believe something or do something. We do this while they try to do the very same to us. Our success in the world will be brought about largely by such conversations. It is the conversations that we have in interviews, dates, sales meetings, pitches, negotiations etc.

But to focus on how we use language with ourselves, what are the core elements of the language of success? What are the things you need to remember when you are communicating with yourself and others? Well there are so many things that can help but let me make three suggestions. These suggestions happen to follow the wisdom of the most successful people out there.

First, control your questions. Your questions dictate where your attention lies. They also dictate the focus of a person you are talking to. When people are depressed, part of what happens is that they ask questions like: Why am I so pathetic? What’s the point? How can things be this bad? When they are anxious they might ask questions like: What if everything goes wrong? How will things go wrong now? What am I supposed to do?

It is important to realise that every question gets an answer. So, asking such questions gets you thinking about the worst case scenario and how bad it all is. The trick is to ask different questions like ‘What do I have to feel grateful for?’, ‘What do I need to do to fix this?, ‘How can I improve this?, ‘What can I look forward to?’ These questions get you to focus on much more useful thoughts and therefore, put you in a much better frame of mind.

Second, use your BUT effectively. Whenever you use the word ‘but’ your attention focuses on what comes after it. When we talk to ourselves, we will say both positive and negative things to ourselves as we discuss the world around us. The key is to make sure that you get into the habit of saying BUT after every negative statement and follow it with a positive statement which gets you focused on where you need to be once more. 

Finally, the choice of words that you make will determine the intensity of your emotions. Euphemisms are terms that diminish the emotional impact of the concept. In war, when people are killed by accident, the terms armies use is ‘collateral damage’. Using a softer term makes it sound less horrible in the media even though it is really, really bad! At the same time, the opposite also happens when very strong words are used full of emotional intensity. For example, abortion is sometimes described as ‘Child Murder’ which is a much more intense description.

When you talk to yourself, choosing words of different emotional intensity will affect your own level of emotion.  When you want to become more excited or motivated or positive about something it is important that you choose words that intensely cultivate such feelings. When you want to become less stressed, frustrated and annoyed, it is important that you choose words that diminish such feelings. Choose your words wisely and notice how intense the feelings are when you change how you describe your experiences. Remember, overusing words can also sometimes take the feeling out of the words as well. So, for example, I know some people that will tell me they ‘love’ me… which makes me feel great until five minutes later when they say they ‘love’ the mushroom sauce on the steak they’re eating!  

Your inner world involves a lot of self talk. Take charge of it by asking better questions, using your ‘but’ effectively and choosing words with the right emotional intensity. You will then find yourself mastering the language of success.


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