Absolute language – remove it.

Ever felt unfairly judged or left out?

If you’re like most of us, your answer is “yes.” If so, you may recall memories of childhood time at recess, in the school cafeteria or in neighborhood games.

Perhaps someone else was chosen before you, or in some cases, you may have even been chosen last. Perhaps folks were quick to judge you based on someone else’s influence, or you found it difficult to get accepted by the “in” crowd.

Dig deeper and you’ll see the core of the issue may actually reside in the language you or others have used. If this is the case, the language could tie to the following absolute words:

  • all
  • always
  • can’t
  • every
  • just
  • only
  • never
  • none
  • no
  • not
  • must/should

The Problem

Using these words limits our willingness to accept. They restrict our thinking, demonstrate our bias, and sometimes condemn. When others hear our usage of these words, they bristle. When we hear others use these words, we feel defeated. Absolute words display judgment.

If you are working on your confidence, notice how you talk back to yourself. Do you describe yourself as always, never, or must?

If you are working on your interpersonal communication, avoid these words. Omitting this language will get you closer to understanding others, will demonstrate openness, and although it will be rough to change old habits, will give you relief about saving face or relationships.

What to try instead

If you hear yourself saying, “I always show up late on Monday…I never get it right…” instead say “Next time I will arrive on time…next time I will get it right…”

When you hear a summary comment about you, such as “I bet you are so glad to have school started so you can have more time to yourself,”  avoid No, I am now even busier going to my kids activities. They are always on the go!” try instead saying, “Yes, you’d think that would be the case. Interestingly, because of my kids’ schedule, I haven’t yet found that free time!” It’s saying the same outcome without the harshness of judgement, starting first from where the speaker was (yes/yet).

Start Simply

Changing language within our head is the first step toward avoiding absolutes.

“Merri, you can’t do that,” could become “Merri, what do you think you can do?”

Work on it daily for 21 days. Track your results. See which words have become more ingrained and then track your results some more.

Once you have worked on your intrapersonal communication language, move to the second step of changing language of your interpersonal communcation, namely, your conversations.

You can do it. Again, work on your conversational language for 21 days. If you wish, try one environment at a time – work, home, social, etc. You needn’t do it all at once. Give yourself relief in your goals and you will stay motivated. Track your results, see what patterns arise, and if you really want to improve, enlist the help of a friend to observe you in action and debrief with you.

We aren’t on the playground anymore! Avoid absolute language.




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On August 26th, 2013, posted in: attitude, behavior, confidence, language by