As a kid, I was always climbing trees, poles, and literally hanging around upside down from the rafters of our lake house. So, it came to no surprise for my dad to find me at the top of a 30-foot tree swinging back and forth. My little eight-year-old brain didn’t realize the tree could break or I could get hurt. I just thought it was fun to be up so high.
My older cousin, Tammy, was also in the same tree. She was hanging on the first big limb, about ten feet below me. Tammy’s mother also noticed us at the exact time my dad did. About that time a huge gust of wind came over the tree. I could hear the leaves start to rattle and the tree begin to sway. I remember my dad’s voice over the wind yell, “Bart, Hold on tightly.” So I did. The next thing I know, I heard Tammy screaming at the top of her lungs, laying flat on the ground. She had fallen out of the tree. I scampered down the tree to safety. My dad later told me why she fell and I did not. Apparently, when Tammy’s mother felt the gust of wind, she yelled out, “Tammy, don’t fall!” And Tammy did. fall.
My dad then explained to me that the mind has a very difficult time processing a negative image. In fact, people who rely on internal pictures cannot see a negative at all. In order for Tammy to process the command of not falling, her nine-year-old brain had to first imagine falling, then try to tell the brain not to do what it just imagined. Whereas, my eight-year-old brain instantly had an internal image of me hanging on tightly. Usage of negative words has a toxic effect.
Here is a list of Toxic Vocabulary words. Notice when you or other people use them.
• But: Negates any words that are stated before it.
• Try: Presupposes failure.
• If: Presupposes that you may not.
• Might: It does nothing definite. It leaves options for your listener
• Would Have: Past tense that draws attention to things that didn’t actually happen.
• Should Have: Past tense that draws attention to things that didn’t actually happen (and implies guilt.)
• Could Have: Past tense that draws attention to things that didn’t actually happen but the person tries to take credit as if it did happen.
• Can’t/Don’t: These words force the listener to focus on exactly the opposite of what you want. This is a classic mistake that parents and coaches make without knowing the damage of this linguistic error.
Toxic phrase: “Don’ t drop the ball!”
Likely result: Drops the ball
Better language: “Catch the ball!”
Toxic phrase: “You shouldn’t ‘ t watch so much television.”
Likely result: Watches more television.
Better language: “I read too much television makes people stupid. You might find yourself turning that TV off and picking up one of those books more often!”
Exercise: Take a moment to write down all the phrases you use on a daily basis or any Toxic self-talk that you have noticed yourself using. Write these phrases down so you will begin to catch yourself as they occur and change them.
Please spread the positivity!