Language, How It Impacts Us – May 26, 2013 Meditation

Language, How It Impacts Us

Words are an interesting thing. What I find interesting is not so much the meaning of a word, though that is important too. No, what I find interesting the most is the effect of words on our mind and our attitude in life.

An example I offer today is the word ‘failure’. Personally it is a word I try to avoid using because of the potential for harm it can cause either in myself or in others.

The word failure caries with it a quality of lacking value. The word failure frequently is a summation from which there is no alternative. It has a finality about it that is counterproductive to life improvement. There are other things about the word I find troubling such as; demeaning, devaluing, judgmental, and so forth.

There have been a number of studies conducted exploring the nature of language and words and the affect those words have on our lives.

I recall hearing of a study done on children comparing those who did well in school, were socially integrated, and who expressed high levels of happiness. What researchers looked at was the frequency of use of negative words versus positive words. They found that those children who did well in several areas being studied had a much larger exposure to positive language than those who did less well. I homes where the children were exposed to negative, demeaning, devaluing language there was a greater tendency for the children to do less well, experience unhappiness, and tended to be insecure; even affecting their ability to learn.

What was interesting was the study went on to explore what would happen if the language the parents used changed. What if the parents were coached in using positive language and reduce negative language. What the researchers uncovered was the children began to show improvement in areas measured.

If we think about how we talk to ourselves, I am not sure about how it is with you, however for me, when I am more encouraging, more positive, more gentle with myself, I can feel a shift in my outlook.

In a class I was attending the other day the instructor said that roughly for every negative word we say to ourselves, we need to say a positive word 16 times to erase the impact of the negative thought; a sure indicator of the harm of negative language.

What negative words do you use to describe yourself?
What negative words do you easily use to describe your job?
What negative words easily come to mind?
Can you think of words that may be either more neutral or even positive?

About Ryusho 龍昇

Nichiren Shu Buddhist priest. My home temple is Myosho-ji, Wonderful Voice Temple, in Charlotte, NC. You may visit the temple’s web page by going to I am also training at Carolinas Medical Center as a Chaplain intern. It is my hope that I eventually become a Board Certified Chaplain. Currently I am also taking healing touch classes leading to become a certified Healing Touch Practitioner. I do volunteer work with the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (you may learn more about them by following the link) caring for individuals who are HIV+ or who have AIDS/SIDA.
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