We sometimes we only need to be aware of and change little things to get positive things happening. Just like we are likely to no longer take notice of information if we see it too often, with too little variation, so too does our brain if is presented with the same information day in and day out.
Really easy things such as noticing and making an effort to change some of our language, can have massive changes on how others react to us and also how we ourselves perceive things.
A big part of cognitive therapy is thinking about the voices in our heads! Yep we all have them chattering away, all of the time. This self talk can be helpful, supportive and positive, or it can be negative, teasing, belittling and downright depressing. So thinking about how we can begin to swap these words out is really important.
The general suggesting I sometimes give, is encouraging people to think about the words we have in our head and whether we are talking to ourselves like a friend or a bully. Most people think of bullying happening from another person, but sometimes we can be really good at bullying ourselves.
The other time we can do a simple but effective word swap is when we are having conflict with others. Most people might be aware of the strategy to use “I” statements. So rather than beginning with ‘you’ as in ‘you are a pain, you are too loud, you are annoying me’ etc…Begin your sentence with ‘I” which shifts the focus onto how you’re feeling about what the other person is doing. It has a much less accusing feel which can reduce tension in the conversation. “I feel like your voice is hurting my ears, I am upset by being teased” etc. This can help diffuse the situation rather than inflame it and it begins to focus our attention on what we can control (which is ourselves and our own reactions to others).
The other words swaps that can be practiced is when swearing is really upsetting (usually to parents and teachers). So together with the family we try to come up other interesting and creative words that feel good to say, are easy to roll off the tongue and help get those angry feelings out, but are less jarring and offensive to the ears of family and friends who may hear them (and be having them directed at them).
I’ve heard some great ones in the past and involving the family to come up with acceptable swear-word alternatives, can also help diffuse the anger and upset about insulting language being used. It also helps shift the focus from the words being used to hurt others, to the fact that saying the words may help the person dissolve and manage their anger in that moment.
What word or words have you looked at changing or swapping out?