Transformational Vocabulary – Watch the Words You Use
Transformational Vocabulary is a way for you to control how you experience the events of your life. The words we use to describe how we’re feeling actually mold our experience. Two people might use different words to talk about the same experience. As a result they’ll have very different reactions.
Anthony Robbins tells an illustrative story in Awaken the Giant Within (a book which I heartily recommend).
This experience so fascinated him that he dug deeper. He asked his strangely calm friend how he had felt when the IRS took an extra quarter of a million dollars from him and it took him two years to get it back. Was he angry? He said he was “a little bit peeved.”
This strange choice of words so shocked Tony Robbins that he realized that the words we use to describe our experience, BECOME our experience.
He tried it out over the next few weeks. Every time he was in a situation that would usually make him “extremely angry” he talked about being peeved. Lo and behold, the intensity of his anger always diminished substantially. From this he concluded that we can control our emotional state by the vocabulary we choose to describe our feeling.
He gives the example of what two famous singers say about their experience just before going on stage. They both feel tension in their stomach and their pulse starts to race and they perspire.
- Carley Simon says that she feels nervous, has stage fright, and she knows she’s having a panic attack
- Bruce Springsteen says that he feels excited and he’s going to love entertaining the audience and he’s ready
Using Transformational Vocabulary – Personal Examples
I try to be aware of my state and my vocabulary all the time. At work when I notice that I’m starting to feel “overwhelmed” I look at how many tasks I’ve crammed into my schedule and I see that I’ve created the problem. I change my expectation of what I’m going to be able to get done that day and I feel fine again, ready to keep working. I have a colleague who uses very negative words to describe her workload. Every day she says things like “I’m drowning,” “I work 16 to 18 hours a day,” “That meeting took up the whole afternoon,” each of which are objectively not true.
A good place to practice awareness of your feeling and what you’re saying to yourself is while driving, especially in rush hour traffic. Lately I’ve noticed that I habitually call other drivers “idiots.” The feelings associated with that accusation are not a very tranquil, I can assure you.
I’m usually upset that other people aren’t driving as FAST enough for my liking, so I’ve started to simply stop thinking about driving when I find myself obsessing about how others are driving. My rule is, if I’m getting upset while driving, switch to thinking about my business instead. This gives me a lot of time to think about what I’ll write in my next blog post or my next e-mail, etc., and I’m not upset at all. I’m no longer even paying attention to my “trigger.”
I have used this mainly to reduce the intensity of negative emotions, as I just described. But you can also use Transformational Vocabulary to intensify good feelings. If you’re having a great time (at a party or working on your business) and you just say, “It’s okay,” you’ll be robbing yourself of some of the juice that you could be getting. Instead say, “This is fantastic.” perfect… extraordinary… phenomenal… energized… brilliant… ecstatic… incredible…
You can use modifiers too:
- a little bit peeved
- somewhat concerned
- kind of unfortunate
- that’s rather inconvenient
- absolutely wonderful
- totally awesome
- deeply satisfying
- exquisitely delicious