The Words We Choose

One phrase I dislike greatly is “you guys.” Know what I mean? It just immediately does two psychological pokes at you:

1.) The person saying “you guys” isn’t “with us.” Because there’s a me, and a you guys.
2.) The person saying “you guys” sees me as part of a crowd, and doesn’t see ME.

To me, the words we choose are very important. Agree?


If you tell me you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve already told me two things about yourself: you’re “trying” (wiggle room) to lose weight (a specific and temporary win versus a lifestyle change).

See how this works? What you say leads what you do. And it leads to whether you’ll nurture yourself and others, or whether you’ll break away from whatever you’ve stated.

This doesn’t have to be cosmic in nature. It’s pretty damned functional. But I warn you: if you start paying attention to the words you use, your life will change. All of it. A little here, a little there. And why? Because words are like the crosshairs we use to aim our intentions.

“Do or do not,” said that famous philosopher, Yoda. “There is no try.”


“Don’t think about what you’re going to do after you read this letter from me.” Did it work? Did you think about what’s next? Here’s a really tangible lesson: if you frame everything in the positive, it works much better than the negative.

“Get healthy” is a lot better than “lose weight.” Why? The frame is that you’re heading towards something. You’ve planted the seed that health matters. “Quit smoking” doesn’t work but “getting healthy” helps.

Remove qualifiers like “trying to” and “planning to” and anything other than your commitment, and you’ll get even more power from this.


There are plenty of people who use words for malicious intent, and even more who use words to misdirect. But like any tool, we can use something to seek a positive or negative effect. If you eat a box of Band-Aids, it won’t heal you. You can use the gunpowder from a few bullets to cauterize a wound and keep someone from bleeding out (or at least that works really well in movies).

So just commit to using your super powers for good. Right?


In your business or your organization, your role (no matter what else you do) is to provide the framing and the mindset to help people navigate the process. You can make people feel welcome or you can shut them out. You can confuse them with big words or you can make it easy. You can choose words that are more solid and less wishy-washy, or not. (Get the joke?)

But choose your words. And do it everywhere. Say good things to yourself. Use the positive of every sentence as often as possible. Look for places where you want to affect change and I bet the words you use around that area could use a tune-up.

Attention. Intention. The world pays attention to how we voice our intentions.

See you next week?

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  1. Marcus Byrd says:

    Love this post. I am a teacher and this same philosophy holds true in the classroom. I let mt students know that I do not listen to excuses, but I don’t mind hearing explanations.

    The reason is that an excuse makes the problematic behaviors (coming in late, not turning in assignments, being disrespectful etc.) okay and that’s not okay. An explanation doesn’t “excuse” the behavior but does explore why it happened. Understanding why something happened helps change the results.

    Essentially it is the same thing but if you offer an explanation as an excuse, then you are telling yourself that the mistake/problem/error doesn’t need to be corrected.

    • Glad that this works for the classroom, as well. I’m really into your point about the “explanation” not being a pass to “excuse” the behavior. VERY clever wording and once it’s unpacked, that makes sense.

  2. I love this post as well. Words are incredibly powerful. The other aspect to words that I think is really interesting is that people often need to create their own definition for words. For example, if you view ‘failure’ as a positive word like I do, you have to remind yourself what your definition is when you hear, or read other people using that same word. You can’t start to view it negatively just because others do, they just haven’t re-framed it yet.

    For business it’s obviously very important what words you use to the people hearing or reading your words, but your words have even greater impact on yourself and your own well-being because not only are you saying the words, but you are thinking them, most likely over and over again.

    Be kind, be positive, and have empathy with your words :)

  3. Just before reading this great post, I was reflecting on how people love to commiserate and share complaints – how bad the weather is, or how much they struggle at work. It’s like a martyr complex – I suffer more than you, work more hours etc. I find that being mindful, fully taking in the present moment, without resisting current reality, leaves you in a state of greater appreciation and wonder. As you wrote in your this post, it simply involves attention and intention.

  4. Excellent post, I wish main stream media journalists were required to read it!

    It’s not as simple as framing an event negatively or positively. Listen to, or read an item in the news in a more liberal media channel and then an account of the same event reported in right of centre media and it can seem the two are different events.

    Even when choosing our words carefully and positively, our cultural, educational and political biases can give a spin to our story that we might not intend. That spin could work against us for certain audiences.

    Effective propaganda in the past has often been so as much from choice of words as outright lies.

  5. This is a central theme of my coaching every week. When the bible says, “In the beginning was the Word” I truly believe, its not kidding!!!

    Thanks, very happy to share this one.

  6. There’s a lot of truth to this. The language that we use says a lot about where our mindset is at.

  7. Julie Weishaar says:

    I agree with you – the “words” we use have a tremendous impact. Positive words imply positive mindset and positive attitude. Additionally, the manner in which these “words” are delivered, also has tremendous impact. So we need to pay attention to things like tone, expressions, and other body language, right? Of course, when we use our “words” online, these other factors can’t be addressed, so the proper use of “words” becomes even more important. :)

  8. Awesome post! Words can be so soothing or a weapon of choice! Which you choose decides who you are & how you live your life! My father has always had a saying: “be sure your brain is fully engaged before putting your mouth into gear”! or in this case your typing mouth!

  9. The word “trying” is such a sneaky little word… Trying is failing with honour, I learned this in Landmark years ago and it really stuck with me. You don’t try to sit, you sit or you don’t. I now notice that when people say they will “try” it really means they really have no intention to do “it” or they just don’t feel like it.

    Love this post and love “attention, intention”; great reminder.

  10. Sometimes words define our actions in future, subconsciously if not intentional. An element of positivism is required to bring out the best outcome within oneself. I agree with you on the role that the words play in the power of commitment and reinforcement. Hence, one has to place his/her words wisely. Good post and thanks for the reminder.

  11. “Mmmmm…” (as Yoda would say).

  12. Chris, I’m going through a big change right now. I guess it’s my mid-life crisis. 40 years young. I’m pushing the envelope and realizing how little my envelope has been all my life. Your words, especially in this post, are helping me on this journey. I wanted to say thanks. So, thanks!

  13. Not to take away from the seriousness of your article, you still forgot the whole y’all thing! Just saying.

  14. Chris, this is a fantastic articulation of my own sentiments about words and their power as connection tools (or disconnection tools). It’s one reason I am such a proponent of the personal note (handwritten or otherwise)m because thoughtful, carefully chosen words, whether spoken or written, can literally change someone’s life. They can comfort, encourage, inspire, edify, compel, and so much more.

    Thank you for a potent reminder about this power for good or ill in each of us.

  15. Marvia Davidson says:

    Oooh. Just got a little convicted – now I’ll my words in the active sense. Thanks for the post. Helps change the way I think about the language I use. And I’m a word person. I’ll be more deliberate and thoughtful now.

  16. Brenda Carlson says:

    Another great post. I do not allow “you guys” to be used in my call center for exactly the reason you posted, it makes it appear as us against them; when we should be portraying a team working together.
    I also made some ‘magic” happen by forwarding your link to 5 new people, so they know what I am talking about when I rattle on about what Chris says.


  17. Gertraud Walters says:

    Powerful Words and I agree with you wholeheartedly. And somehow it’s connected to the way we were brought up, or the Lifestyle we chose to live.

    Too much damage is inflicted with our words. Once they’re out you can’t take them back. I look at it like sowing seeds, so I know which Harvest to expect.
    I’ve been reaping some good stuff :)

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