The Power of Language

I came across an article that underscores an aspect of the way I work with people on the language they use. I'd never heard of "Eprime" before but it's very interesting.

It relates to the research on functional and dysfunctional self-talk by Seligman and others (see his excellent book, "Learned Optimism"), which describes dysfunctional thinking patterns having features of being permanent, pervasive, and personal. That is, when something goes wrong, you think of it as unchanging, everywhere and all the time, as well as all your fault. In my framework, using the "idea monster" as a symbol of negative self-talk, a feature of "monster talk" is the static nature. Your critical inner voice tells you, for example, that you are no good at meeting new people, that you are not a people person. So you go to a social event and act that way. In contrast, you can also tell yourself, "I have had some trouble meeting people at times (honesty), especially at work-related social events (specificity), and it's something I'm working on (in process, not static)." This gives you room to grow. You can also have some compassion with something like, "I haven't had the best role models in the past, and I was pretty isolated as a child, but I'm getting better step by step and I'm proud of that." This is what I call a rebuttal to a monster, and very important for self-care. It's useful and powerful to use metaphors and symbols because that is the way humans process information in the most direct way. (For more on this, see Ch. 9 in "Leaving the Fold")