- Personal Development -

The Living Experiment: Conscious Language

The words you speak both reflect and shape your reality. All the more reason to say what you mean — and mean what you say.

Speech bubbles and star illustration

The way you use language — whether you’re talking with others or to yourself — goes a long way toward shaping your experiences. It also reveals a lot about the way you think, feel, and function.

With or without your awareness, your word choices program your beliefs — and broadcast them. They can support or betray your intentions. 

So this month, we’re talking about the art of using language more consciously, and in the service of your highest goals. From the surprising power of key words and declarations to the value of saying more of what you mean and less of what you don’t, we explore the ways language defines your experience and how it shapes your connections with others.

We also offer some experiments to help you develop a more empowered approach to language in your own life. 

Sloppy Speech

  • Our culture trains us to talk a lot ­— and often without reflection. During the course of our daily lives, we speak most of our sentences automatically and reactively. We rarely pause to consider the meaning and intention (or lack thereof) embedded in each utterance.
  • Neurological and linguistic research demonstrates that, as humans, we are hardwired to react to words in subtle and powerful ways — often at a subconscious level. To a significant extent, we are programmed by the words we speak and hear. 
  • The study of Conscious Language is an exploration of how we can leverage this trait to our advantage through thoughtful speech patterns and empowering word choices. It strives to increase our awareness of how vague, negative, and self-limiting language works against us.

Powerful Declarations

  • In much the same way that physical postures and “power poses” have been shown to influence our capacity and outcomes, our use of language can influence our mental–emotional states. It can also determine the responses we receive from others.
  • One of the simplest ways to begin leveraging Conscious Language is to first notice, and then thoughtfully adjust, your use of any words or phrases following the word “I” — especially “I am.” 
  • Conscious Language experts suggest that within the neurocircuitry of our body–mind, the words “I am” function as a declaration, predisposing us to create the realities we are speaking. 
  • Our subconscious self tends to process language literally, meaning that phrases like “I’m busy” or “I’m confused” are more likely to perpetuate those states than to relieve them.
  • With this in mind, you might consider swapping disempowering phrases like “I’m exhausted” or “I’m stressed out” with more empowering (yet still honest) statements, like “I’m ready for some rest and relaxation.” 
  • Note that this differs from repeating positive affirmations that you don’t perceive to be true (a strategy that can backfire, creating cognitive dissonance). 

Reclaiming Your Words

  • When you first begin reformulating your word choices, it can scramble your brain a bit. At first, saying exactly and only what you mean can make it hard to say anything at all. So it helps to consider this effort an ongoing exploration.
  • As you begin to speak more consciously, you’ll find that you’re not the only one who benefits. By expressing yourself with more accuracy, specificity, and awareness, you’ll enjoy more honest conversations and more productive collaborations. You might even inspire friends and colleagues to follow suit.

Experiments

Pilar suggests: Review your language for a limiting word or phrase that you use regularly, and consider eliminating it from your vocabulary or replacing it with a more consciously chosen option. Get some ideas from the  linked articles in this episode’s notes or listen to the “Conscious Language 2” episode for more counsel. 

Dallas suggests: Ditch  rhetorical conversation starters like “How are you?” And unless you really want to engage someone in conversation, don’t. When you do choose to chat, avoid predictable small talk, and instead consider a more open-ended, curious inquiry, like “What are you feeling most hopeful about these days?” 

Listen and Learn: Check out this and other episodes of The Living Experiment podcast at LivingExperiment.com. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

adapted this column from their top-rated podcast, The Living Experiment. Dallas is cofounder of Whole30 and the New York Times best-selling coauthor of The Whole30 and It Starts With Food.

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