Outside Article: Absolute language in negativity

Not my article, just sharing some good information. Annnd maybe coming back to this in an episode about core beliefs, come Wednesday. Hint.


This Small Change in Your Language Can Help Downplay Negativity

When we are in a negative mood, we often get caught using absolutist and exaggerated language to describe our feelings. One simple trick for downplaying these negative patterns is to choose words that makes them sound less powerful and extreme.

We all have “positive” and “negative” traits about ourselves – things we like about ourselves and things we don’t like.

Accepting both sides is important for being completely honest with yourself, which is a prerequisite to any type of self-improvement. We can’t change something about ourselves if we aren’t aware of it or ignore it.

It’s important to accept both your strengths and weaknesses; after all, no one’s perfect – everyone’s a mixed bag – and recognizing that can help us see ourselves in a more clear and compassionate light.

The problem is: People who are very negative about themselves and suffer with low self-esteem tend to exaggerate their problems and weaknesses to an unhealthy degree.

You can find out how someone truly sees themselves by paying attention to the words they choose to describe themselves.

We emphasize the negativity about ourselves, by saying things like…

  • “I’m very lazy.”

  • “I’m really stupid.”

  • “I’m extremely mean.”

  • “I’m totally lost.”

  • “I’m awfully depressed.”

The words we use to describe our negativity can be very powerful and intense. They don’t just accept a weakness, they embellish it and beat it over our heads.

The more exaggerated language you use, the more you feed into that way of seeing yourself.

This type of language causes us to identify with these negative aspects of ourselves more strongly.

A simple strategy is to downplay this negativity by using less intense language, even while describing a perceived weakness.

We can actively downplay our weaknesses by framing them in a less intense way:

  • “At times, I’m a little bit lazy.”

  • “Sometimes, I can be kind of stupid.”

  • “In certain situations, I’m sort of mean.

  • “At times, I feel a little bit lost.”

  • “Sometimes, I’m kind of depressed.”

It’s a small change in how we talk about ourselves, but it can make a world of difference in our self-perception over time.

To start, by adding phrases like “at times,” “sometimes,” or “in certain situations,” you recognize that your weakness is real but that it isn’t always present.

Replacing words such as “really,” “completely,” and “totally” with “kind of,” “sort of,” or a “little bit” also plays a big role in dampening the negative thought.

The best part is you’re still being honest with yourself, you’re just not exaggerating the negative thought or making it out to be way more serious and powerful than it needs to be.

One interesting study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin discovered that this small modification of language can help “mute” or “downplay” negative self-knowledge and negative thinking about ourselves.

In general, the language we choose to use can have a big influence on our attitude and mindset. This is one of the central ideas behind modern Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, where the goal between the therapist and patient is often to pay more attention to one’s thought patterns and find ways to reframe those beliefs into something healthier and more constructive.

Changing the language you use will help you see yourself in new ways.

Downplaying your negative attributes is just one small way of shifting your thinking in a more positive direction. When you use words and phrases like “sometimes” or a “little bit,” you at least open the door and create the possibility for more growth and improvement in the future.

One word can make all the difference. That’s how close the relationship is between our words and our thoughts. One of my favorite words is the power of “yet”. For example, “You’re not a failure, you’re just not successful…yet.” Again, that one simple change opens up the door to new possibilities.

Watch your words today, especially how you talk about yourself (and others).

When you find yourself saying something “negative,” try to find ways to describe it in a less intense and exaggerated way. Find ways to downplay your negativity, rather than always turning the volume up all the way.