Five words to write out of your vocabulary
Guadalupe Hirt, 47, Co-Founder & CCO of SecondAct|Women

Do you remember being in elementary school and chanting this little ditty when another kid launched a snotty comment at you or one of your friends? “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” 

In the moment, it felt like the proper response, and while we pretended that their words didn’t hurt, they did, we just never admitted it out loud. So, if this approach didn’t work then, what makes us believe that because we’re now sitting at a more wiser and more mature 40 & 50+, it's okay to launch snotty comments at ourselves at speeds that would leave a welt or seriously injure us if they were actual stones? 

Why do we still believe that “words will never hurt me?” Truth be told, words do hurt. Sometimes, even more than stones. 

So why do words hurt? For starters, words consist of vibration and sound. It is these vibrations that create the very reality that surrounds us. Secondly, words create in our mind first and then in our reality. If our words and thoughts are the very tools with which we create our reality, then surely, they are our most powerful tool yet? Surely, we should only pick the very best words in order to create our very best reality. But do we?

Some word choices, thoughts or expressions are so deep-seated that they’re going to take time to change. In these moments, heed Maya Angelou’s poetic words of truth “When you know better, you do better.” In short, keep trying and if you don't get it right the first time, try another approach, but always build upon what you are learning.

Here’s 3 key tips to keep in mind as you “clean out” your word closet. 

  1. Self-correct in the moment. If you catch yourself saying a negative word, or comment, self-correct by re-stating the same idea with a positive word.
  2. Keep going. Recognize that it's impossible to change habits overnight, however, with some tenacity, grace and self-love, you can move mountains.
  3. Be aware of the word sting. Sometimes, words themselves are by definition, not hurtful, but it’s the sting we add to them (the tone, CAPS, or emphasis) that give them that bite. 

So, what are some words you should aim to nix from your vocabulary? Here’s my top 5 word picks to begin.
 

  1. Can’t. According to Laurie Richards, public speaker and co-author of Ready, Set, Go!, the word "can't" suggests a lack of control. Instead, she recommends swap this word out with phrases like, "I'm choosing not to," or "It's better if I don't," to allow themselves to feel a sense of control in choosing, instead of placing a limitation on themselves.
  2. But. Sharryn Gardner, pediatric A&E consultant, says using the word "but" in the middle of speaking negatively reflects on whatever else you said before. So instead of using this word that has a "negating and judging" character, Gardner says it can almost always be replaced by the word "and." 
  3. Should. Patricia Celan, MD, psychiatry resident at Dalhousie University in Canada, recommends removing the word "should" from your vocabulary. She says this word not only puts a lot of expectation and pressure on you but also on others. She also points out that it's often "connected with perfectionism, controlling behavior, or anxiety." 
  4. Just. Using the word "just" can be harmful, according to Katy Huie Harrison, PhD, owner of Undefining Motherhood, an educational advocacy website for parenting women. "It's what I call a 'hedging' phrase because it hedges your bets," she says. "The word 'just' suggests that you're not confident with the statement you're making or question you're asking, and thus undermines your authority."
  5. Perfect. Using the word "perfect" also sets you up for disappointment and negativity, says lifestyle expert and writer Samantha Warren. Since perfection is not an attainable thing, banning this word from your vocabulary helps you feel better about yourself and your achievements. After all, Warren says, "Perfectionism is the enemy of productivity."

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