Role of Words in Behavioral Change

role of words in behavioral changeLearn about the role of words in behavioral change from a leading expert on habit formation.

We all use words in our daily life to make sentences and express ourselves through them. The words we use to communicate — both with others and with ourselves —truly matter.

In fact, our words can wind up influencing how we behave- and so it’s important we understand the power of the words and phrases we use.

Anthropologists say that our ability for reasoning developed at the same time as we humans developed language. It’s because words provide us with a “source code” for advanced thoughts.

Before we developed the ability to use language, we lacked the ability to think in the ways we think now. 

  • The ability to think abstractly in small children grows with their ability to understand words.
  • And the phrases that people use most frequently can have a big impact on how people behave.

Words also play a big role in creating new and eliminating old habits.

when things change inside of you they change outside of you tooIf you want to create a new habit or get rid of an unhealthy habit, word choices can enable you to do so.

So in this article we will be diving deeper into how words influence behavioral change in people.

I’m writing about this topic because I’m bestselling psychological author and research geek on behavioral change (with 2 million books and course sold).

I’ve spent countless hours studying the psychology and neuroscience behind habit formation and the power of small tweaks to create big changes.

That’s why I created the Tweak a Week Online Course – to help people make small, positive changes in their habits that lead to big results.

Words affect behavior

The use of different words determines how much you will succeed in accomplishing something.

For example…

  • There are two different words: “don’t” and “can’t.”

People use them alternatively without thinking. But both words influence our behavior differently. 

Imagine that you are cutting down on sweets to lose weight, but a friend offers you a delicious stack of pancakes.

What would be your response?

  • Most people would say something like “No, thanks, I can’t eat pancakes as I want to lose weight.”
  • However, this response can be made more powerfully convincing to ourselves if we rephrase it as, “No, thanks, I don’t eat pancakes anymore”

Take a look again to see how these 2 different key words (can’t and don’t) are being used.

Although most people use those 2 words interchangeably, each of these words have a different effect on the speaker’s behavior.

  • In the first sentence, “No, thanks, I can’t eat pancakes as I want to lose weight,” the word “can’t” expresses your inability to eat a pancake. Although you want to have it. Your decision to not eat pancakes is a compulsion. 
  • In the second sentence, “No, Thanks, I don’t eat pancakes anymore” the word “don’t” represents your desire not to eat pancakes as you want to lose weight. Your decision to not eat pancakes is your own will. You feel good to stay healthy. (You can learn more about words and weight loss here.)

The above is just one quick example which shows how the choice of specific words influences people internally – and thereby changes how people behave and react to situations in day-to-day life.

As a result, it is critical that we mindfully choose the best words in our daily interactions. 

Words affect our habits

words change our behaviorHere’s another example of how the words we say to ourselves affect our habits. 

  • If you are in the habit of being late, and you want to stop being late – you should not tell yourself: “I don’t want to be late.”

When you say these words to yourself daily, they’re not really empowering you to be committal to being on time.

And so the thought of being late winds up accidentally getting stuck deep into your subconscious.

As a result, you get stuck in behavior that makes you late.

Hence, you’ll wind up doing the things that make you arrive late. 

On the other hand…

  • When you say, “I am always on time” your thoughts and mind focus on being on time.

When your mind focuses on being on time, you do the things that make you arrive on time, whether it’s waking up early, or taking a low-traffic route to the office or something else. 

Meaning? The words we say to ourselves greatly influence our behavior and actions. And this affects the results in our daily life.

Therefore, we need to mindfully use the right words in our daily communications – both to others and ourselves. If you find it challenging to find new words, you can use this website to find the right words. 

Summing Up

The words we use wind up influencing our behavior. So, words you use should be chosen carefully.

Get More Support with Behavioral Change

If you’re struggling to make change in your life happen, consider enrolling in my online program Tweak A Week. This course is designed to make it fun and easy to add in new small tweaks to your habits each week.

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