How Do You Use Language?

“We’re close,” said the text.

Jeff was making breakfast when he got the text from his friends.

But what did they mean by “close”? Close enough for Jeff to turn off the stove and wait outside? Or close but still time to sit down and eat his scrambled eggs?

If our daughter Jenna is coming over, “close” means she’s within 5 minutes of our house. For an out-of-town friend, “close” might mean they’re an hour away.

(And to another of Jeff’s friends, “close” means they’ve been sitting in our driveway for 10 minutes already.)

The meaning of our words makes a difference with each other.

It even matters for the words we use with ourselves.

I’ve been trying to monitor the words I tell myself. I’ve been collecting helpful mantras from books, friends, scripture, etc. (They might become my 28 Days blog series in February 2022?)

Here are a few I use often:

  • Instead of “This catastrophe must be all my fault,” I’m replacing it with “I am human, not harmful.
  • Instead of “I lose my worth when someone doesn’t like me,” I’m replacing it with “Other’s inability to see my value does not detract from my worth.”
  • Instead of “I can’t handle not knowing,” I’m replacing it with “I don’t like not knowing, but I can accept it for now.”

I like what Brené Brown says about language having the power to define our experiences, such as between anxiety and excitement:

“Anxiety and excitement feel the same, but how we interpret and label them can determine how we experience them.”

I need to watch my labels so I can alter my experiences.

And when I can do so authentically, I want to turn the negative talk into positive language.

It doesn’t always work. And it isn’t always even possible.

But when it is, I want to do it.

And when I can, I hope I do.

I’m close.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

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24 thoughts on “How Do You Use Language?

  1. Martha J Orlando

    Words, and how we use them, most definitely matter, Lisa. We can build up or we can tear down with words. I hope you will do that series in February – sounds both interesting and challenging.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I’ve been both lifted up and torn down by words, and I’ve done the same to others. It’s so important to wield our words wisely. Thanks for the kind words you always share, Martha!

  2. Pam Ecrement

    Well said, Lisa, and an important reminder when words are so randomly thrown around without much awareness of the consequences of them (even if they are not aimed at us). Additionally, what we pronounce about ourselves, others, etc. also give life to so many negative things if we don’t seek to tame our tongues as James tells us.

    Thanks for this excellent reminder!

  3. Calvonia

    I have been intentional lately about the words I use to describe my circumstance or to assess myself. “Would I say that to a dear friend or family member in the same scenario?” If not, I will not direct it to myself. It’s bad enough when other’s tear you down but self-sabotage is sad.

  4. Anita Ojeda

    Ohhh! I love how his as an idea for #Write28Days! And you’re so right—words are nuanced creatures. I like dogs, but I really don’t like dogs that aren’t part of my family in some way. Other dogs annoy me and I don’t want their attention. But I still like dogs ?. Self-talk is so important—it helps us understand ourselves and our relation to other. I’m trying to view other’s attitudes about me in a more positive manner. Someone may ‘like me,’ but not want to spend time with me. That’s ok. I’m not their kind of person, but it doesn’t diminish the kind of person I AM. Beloved of God, daughter of a king.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love your analogy with dogs, Anita. (And I so agree with your analysis that I like dogs, but not ALL dogs. ha) I’ve been trying to decide on a theme for #Write28Days and so far the mantra theme is the one that’s sticking so far.

  5. Trudy

    I especially love your helpful mantras here, Lisa. I would never use the words I use to myself to anyone else, and I need to practice replacing those negative words with positive and true ones. Love and blessings to you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Isn’t it something that we’ll say things to ourselves that we wouldn’t dream of saying to others? It’s crazy. May we learn to be as compassionate with our words to ourselves as we are with our words to others. Love you, Trudy!

  6. David

    Dear Lisa, your “when I can do so authentically, …” rings true. This is something that definitely takes practice, trial-and-error, and a kind of exploration — what exactly is the authentic, positive, language for this moment?

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree, David. Choosing the appropriate language can definitely be a trial and error thing. I’ve found that when I say negative things to/about myself out loud, it’s easier to catch it, and then turn it around, versus when I only keep them in my mind. Not sure why.

  7. Jeanne Takenaka

    Lisa, words, and how we use them, are important. One of my sons used to say he wanted to die when what he really meant was he was angry, or really upset about something. Our culture encourages sloppy word usage, which has led to a lot of hurt, online and in real life.

    Those words we use with ourselves are especially important, aren’t they? Like you, I’ve had to reframe some of those things I tell myself to be a more accurate, more healthy message.

  8. Theresa Boedeker

    The trickiness of words and how we each use them and think we are clearly communicating our ideas to others. Hubby and I both interpret words differently and we find so often we are saying one thing and the other person is saying another thing. But even the dictionary will have 3 ways of interpreting the same word, so i don’t know how we can even be exact in our words and with the hearing and deciphering. Love your mantras, especially this one: “Instead of “I lose my worth when someone doesn’t like me,” I’m replacing it with “Other’s inability to see my value does not detract from my worth.””

  9. Jean Wise

    words are so powerful. Just today I mentioned to a friend that I was glad I could say things out-loud to her as that is when I actually heard them better.

  10. Joanne Viola

    Lisa, it is amazing how words can mean different things to different people. May we not only think about the words we use, but to whom we are speaking. How will they receive or perceive what we are saying?

  11. Barbara Harper

    I’ve had to reframe my internal narrative. I used to berate myself when I’d done something wrong or made a foolish mistake, even using words like “stupid” and “idiot.” But I realized over time that I need to give myself grace–we’re all going to make mistakes or even yield to self-will. God doesn’t tell us to bludgeon ourselves, but to confess it to Him. I try to learn from it for next time but skip the negative self-talk.

  12. Lois Flowers

    Lisa, I smiled at your last line. 🙂 You’ve definitely piqued my interest with that 28 Days blog topic. And I love how you’ve reframed those negative statements into something more truthful and kind.

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