Power of Language

I have attended many workshops on presentation and communication skills during my early days of professional career and in these workshops one common statistics shared focuses on the channels of communications.  These statistics say that our communication is made-up of about 55% body language, 38% tone and 7%  on the actual words spoken.

Later when I was getting trained to become a professional coach, I learnt the crucial last 7% of communication i.e. the – the actual words spoken. Till that time all my focus was on improving my body language and tone.

I have often observed that some of the best coaches use certain words and speaking style frequently. It looks to me that they have mastered the art and science of communicating using the power of language. I have observed that some of the best coaches use phrases like “be on time” instead of “don’t be late”. I have often heard them saying “this sprint should be successful” instead of “this sprint should not fail”. Initially I used to think that they are just trying to say things in a positive manner by using sentences like “glass is half full” rather than “glass is half empty”. But it is not just that.

There is strong relation between the words we use and the reality we experience.  In metaphysics the concepts of reality is expressed in “language” only. All existence in this universe can be expressed only in language. Some philosophers argue that the reality that one experiences arises in one’s language. I agree to this part to a large extent.

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”
― Ludwig Wittgenstein

To illustrate this point let’s do a small exercise to  try and understand the power of language.

Consider you get triggered by some person when they behave in a certain way. Now breakdown the whole scenario as below –

What is the trigger and result? When John checks-in the code without proper review and when I see the build failing. I become angry.

Notice the phrase “I become angry” – Now instead of using the word “become” try saying “I wound up being angry”.

What is the difference? By changing the language we actually create a new reality. Instead of the thinking you “become angry” you start to realize that due to certain triggers anger starts manifesting within you and you experience some emotions and behaviours.

Language is a very powerful tool and it has the power to alter or create reality. Artists and poets use it creatively to generate certain emotions and experiences. Lawyers use it to argue their cases. Therapists use it to heal people. Coaches use it bring out the best in others and leaders use to inspire people.

Hence you can change your words to change your world.

I close my article with my favourite video that demonstrates this power of language.