Using Empowering Language

Taking conscious control of self-talk can act like a magic wand to shift to empowering and controlling mental states. Young people can be taught to self-talk in enabling and self-powering ways. Phrases such as “prompts me” and “stimulates me” can be substituted for the powerless “made me” and “caused me.”

Additional words that reduce “victim” thinking are references to “influence,” “persuade,” “arouse,” “irritate,” “annoy,” “pique,” and “provoke.” These words do not give away power; they merely describe the effect on oneself.

Instead of thinking, “The task is too difficult,” young people can be taught to take charge by eliminating the “too” and by changing the word “difficult” into “challenging”—as in, “The task is challenging.”

Another more subtle language pattern is the ill use of “try.” “Try” merely conveys an attempt. Self-talk should convey commitment. A person does not get out of bed by trying to get out of bed or make a phone call by trying to call. You get out of bed and you make a call. This type of self-talk is the hallmark of success. As Henry Ford so aptly put it, “If you think you can, you can; if you think you can’t, you can’t. Either way you are right.”

Another approach is to teach young people to ask themselves proactive questions. “What would be the best way to act in this situation?” “How can I best respond to that?” “How can I prevent that urge from directing my behavior?” These types of questions empower people and assist in fostering individual as well as social responsibility.

It is no kindness to treat people as helpless, inadequate, or victims—regardless of what has happened to them. Kindness is having faith in people and treating them in a way that encourages and empowers them to handle their situations, stimulations, and urges.