What would life be like if you couldn’t communicate with another human being?
What if you had the desperate need to get a message across to your partner, your child or a friend but couldn’t do so? What if you could neither write nor speak, what would you do?
Would you get extremely frustrated? Would you resort to gestures and crude drawings? Would you unwittingly come to suspect incompetence or harm your self worth?
Each of you possesses a skill, a tool that has evolved over thousands of years.
I am not referring to your opposable thumbs or the ability to text as fast as a teenager.
I am referring to language, the single tool that has transformed humanity. Language is an amazing tool that has leapfrogged us from cave dwelling Neanderthals to the pioneers of the information age.
Language has the power to transform our emotions, to further our reach, and to manifest a greater destiny. Words can transcend the barriers imposed even by physical laws. Powerful words can have far reaching consequences. They can offer hope or wreck lives; they can wound or heal; they can uplift or diminish others. Even in the darkest depths of despair, words can shine a light on a glimmer of hope.
Even though each and everyone of us has access to this free tool, many of us never capitalize on its full potential. Corporate life with its pointless communications chips away at the core of our language. Never again will I sit back and allow meaningless words to contaminate my vocabulary!
Everyday I permit only words that will serve me well into my wardrobe of words.
Sit up and pay attention! This is the “What Not to Say or Write” edition of RGL.
Language is the dress of thought.
My intent is to make you to inspect your language. I want you to cast away the ill-fitting phrases and ugly words that have seeped into your language. You are doing yourself a disservice if you allow such words to pollute your language.
Instead, meticulously choose words that will adorn your writing and speech. Adopt a multi-hued vocabulary that will showcase your brilliance. Create an ultimate vocabulary of success.
Step 1: Open Your Wardrobe of Words
I am ever grateful for the beauty and the variety of the English language. I don’t think I will ever get weary of wanting to convey an idea and being able to articulate it. Although I speak several Indian languages, my depth of learning and writing in those languages doesn’t compare to my study of English.
The limits of my language means the limits of my world.
Which is one of the reasons I am very passionate about speaking and writing fluently and precisely. I am exasperated by those who take this beautiful language for granted.
Imagine if you will, a store full of gorgeous clothes, shoes and accessories. In this store, you can shop to your heart’s content. You can even enlist the help of a personal shopper to help you cherry pick garments that will flaunt all your assets.
With such a vast catalog to choose from, why do most people opt for the same tired insipid phrases? Why do they reach for dull uninspiring beige or taupe when they could have their pick of tangerine, chartreuse or aquamarine?
Just as the garments we wear can shape our attitude, words can shape our beliefs and impact our actions. To change your state, you must begin by discarding the words that do not belong in your vocabulary.
Step 2: Inspect and Discard Unfitting Words
Does it surprise you to hear that something as trifling as swapping out a few words in your vocabulary can change your life? Yet, it has been scientifically proven that replacing a single word in your vocabulary can drastically alter your perception and your reality.
Over the years, I have been observing the power of changing one word in communicating with someone or describing an activity and how that has impacted their feeling and behavior. A self-imposed year of intense reading, writing and observation has proved this to be true.
Simply by altering the words you habitually use to describe your actions, you can change how you think, how you feel and how you live.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”
So, bring out your words and scrutinize them. Do they display your brilliant qualities or quaint quirks? Do they reveal your passions and your dreams?
Have any unsightly words infiltrated your wardrobe unbeknownst to you?
Get clear on the words that reside in your wardrobe! Do they reflect your true emotions?
Are you overwhelmed or really just challenged? Are you embarrassed that you have failed or simply aware that you have learned something new?
For example, I have been referring to my work as “challenging“. This word of course has different meanings. Instead of believing that some of my goals might be insurmountable, I now prefer to think of them as “stimulating” or “invigorating.” Who wouldn’t want to leap out of the bed in the morning to tackle an invigorating goal?
I am also reaping great fitness rewards by “energizing” instead of “exercising“. I am tremendously enjoying my “spirited conversations” with my spouse instead of engaging in “heated arguments“.
Step 3: Redrape Your Basic Emotions
Pause for a moment. Write down five basic words that you use to describe your emotions or actions consistently.
Choose words that represent your negative emotional states. Are you angry, bored or rejected? Brainstorm to find a replacement for those words that will dial down the emotional intensity.
Try changing the way you perceive these negative feelings. Use modifiers such as “just a little”, “for the moment I am” or “I am a tad bit”.
- Instead being angry; say you are displeased.
- May be you are not bored; you are uninterested.
- Why are you frustrated? It is nothing to get upset about.
- No one has rejected you; you are just misunderstood.
- There is no need to be anxious; you are just expectant.
- Stop being overwhelmed; you are stretched a tad bit.
- I am not stressed; I am just a little busy.
Did rephrasing these emotions make you feel better? Build upon the above suggestions to create a list of all your negative emotions.
By changing the foundations of your vocabulary, I guarantee that you will instantly reframe these emotions.
You will begin to shift your reality by asking yourself “how can I feel more pleased, more interested, better understood?”
What about when you are in a positive frame of mind? Can you think of words you can use to maximize that positive emotion? Can you concentrate that feeling of well-being, confidence and exhilaration?
Can you find five positive emotions that you feel on a daily basis? Substitute a superlative word to describe those same emotions.
- Are you feeling just okay or simply fantastic?
- Are you kind of interested or utterly fascinated?
- Was that nice or spectacular?
- Are you lucky or incredibly blessed?
- Do you feel confident or invincible?
- Are you bold or audacious?
- Are you happy or ebullient?
As you can see trading in your usual description for a stronger, more intense picture can really pump up the volume of your positive emotions!
There is nothing stopping you from using these words throughout your day. Don’t let the attitude of others stop you from making the most of your positive feelings.
They make for unique signatures on emails or messages. You may even put a smile on the face of your disenchanted co-worker or perk up your underwhelmed client!
Step 4: Add Color, Pattern, Shine and Texture
Now that we have inspected the foundational articles in our wardrobe of words, we must discuss adding splashes of color, shine and texture. A soupcon of these will add panache to your language and command everyone’s attention.
Truth is something which can’t be told in a few words. Those who simplify the universe only reduce the expansion of its meaning.
The English language offers a variety of tools to speak and write eloquently. Metaphors with their ability to convey universal concepts are an ideal vehicle to promote a visual image of your idea.
- Is your child shouting at his brother or is he wounding him with verbal arrows? (This ploy has helped curb the verbal war between my boys)
- Are you building a database or are you re-architecting the information system that houses your client’s data?
- Is a meal just food to be consumed or is it fuel for your mind and body? In which case isn’t organic produce simply the premium grade fuel that your body deserves?
Here are two famous speeches that are scintillating examples of the power of words.
JFK’s inaugural address in 1961:
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans — born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. …
Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation — a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.
JK Rowling’s Speech to the Harvard Graduating Class of 2008:
I am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted and well-educated, you have never known hardship or heartbreak. Talent and intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the Fates, and I do not for a moment suppose that everyone here has enjoyed an existence of unruffled privilege and contentment. …
So given a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a checklist of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.
If powerful words are the basics in your wardrobe, figures of speech are your accessories.
They are your battle armor and your tools of wizardry. They will broadcast your message while suffusing your daily life with the power of words.
Not only will they elevate your ideas in the world but they will also boost your self confidence.
Step 5: Keep Your Style Fresh
Right at this moment you have a simple yet powerful tool at your fingertips. This tool is free of cost and can instantaneously transform your life. It is your language, specifically your vocabulary.
Begin today by noticing the words you use regularly. These two tools have been immensely helpful in making me aware of the words I write:
- Wordle is a tool that generates “word clouds” from text that you provide or from a website feed. The tool gives greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source. Wordle allows you to save the output and share it with their gallery. The featured image in this post was created by Wordle.
- Wolfram Alpha is not a search engine. It is in fact a computational knowledge engine that answers factual queries by utilizing externally sourced “curated data”. What I love about Wolfram Alpha is that it can provide a mathematical analysis of your Facebook posts. Click here to see a word cloud of my Facebook posts.
Replace negative words that you find with empowering words. Reframe your feelings by rephrasing your emotions. Identify words that infuse you with energy. Use Daily Affirmations to reinforce positive emotions.
Remember that reading is a sure fire way to expand your references and kindle your imagination. I know of no other way to build a transformational vocabulary than to begin with lifetime reading habits.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.
You too can fuel your greatness by learning and building a vibrant wardrobe of words.
Join me as we create an ultimate vocabulary of success and plant the seeds for an audacious life!