“Vocabularies are crossing circles and loops. We are defined by the lines we choose to cross or to be confined by.” — A.S. Byatt
“As names have power, words have power.” — Patrick Rothfuss
Just as the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon, your thoughts have shaped your life. According to the National Science Foundation, we have as many as 50,000 thoughts per day. Many of them are basic: “step,” “grab that,” “move.” But there are also many repeating messages. These ideas matter more than most realize because just as our beliefs and actions impact the words we use, the words we use shape our beliefs and actions.
This principle is well understood at the highest levels of politics. Politicians know that if they can get you to accept their choice of words, they can probably get you to accept their way of thinking as well. Whether you think of yourself as “pro-life” or “pro-choice” on abortion, view illegal aliens as “illegals” or “undocumented immigrants,” or regard tax cuts as “giving people back their own money” as opposed to “giving a tax break to the rich” likely determines which way you fall on an issue. When the words change, the feelings tend to change too.
1) Controlling your temper.
If you’re a human being, you’ve gotten in arguments with other people. It just goes with the territory. But how you DESCRIBE that argument can change how you view it. Was it a “knock-down, drag-out fight” or a “minor disagreement”? Did you “fly off the handle” or “get into a kerfuffle”? Show me someone who can’t control his temper and I will show you someone who habitually uses words like “enraged,” “explosive,” and “furious” to describe his feelings when someone with better self-control would use words like “perturbed, “peeved,” or “mildly annoyed.” If, for example, you label your reaction as “mildly annoyed,” it’s difficult to justify screaming or being upset for hours, isn’t it? By changing the words you habitually use, you can eventually turn yourself from a raging wolverine into a lamb.