November 4, 2008

Improving language - improving life

Through the years, my appreciation for deliberately developing language skills has grown. On this blog, I have mentioned several themes in the use of constructive and effective language. Here are a few examples:

1.
Improve your questions: in the post Effective questions for helping and providing direction examples are given of solution-focused questions that can be helpful in many contexts like helping, managing and self-coaching. Improving your questions will probably help you achieve your goals more pleasantly and quickly. As Marilee Adams says: 'Great results begin with great questions.' One person who uses this wisdom is Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, who says: 'We run the company by questions, not by answers.'

2. Improve language fit
: the post Language matching explains how in solution-focused conversations an important aspect in communicating with the other person is to match the language of that person. The post Evidence of the advantage of using the words of the client describes a clever experiment that shows how incredibly strong the effect of language matching can be.

3. Improve language wisdom
: the post Speaking words of wisdom explains how many people, with increasing age, use more positive and fewer negative affect words, use fewer self references, use more future-tense and fewer past-tense verbs, and demonstrate a general pattern of increasing cognitive complexity. The effect is Positive Emotion Regulation. The post Language use and mental health shows that good health is associated with a limited use of first-person pronouns, and with a relatively high use of causal words (because, cause, effect).

4. Improve your No
: the post The importance of saying No gracefully explains how No is one of the hardest words for us to say. But, if we can learn how to say it gracefully, if we can learn how to say it positively, I believe it can really help transform our personal lives, our work lives and the larger world. This interview with William Ury explains how to say No positively.

5. Improve healing language
: Greek philosopher Aeschylus once said: "Words are the physicians of a mind diseased". And this is true. Several types of language use can have downright healing effects. For instance, take the technique of normalizing. Normalizing is used to depathologize people’s concerns and present them instead as normal life difficulties. It helps people to calm down about their problem. It helps them realize they're not abnormal for having this problem. Another example of such a technique is reframing. Reframing is a technique which places what has happened or what has been said in a positive light (for instance assuming a positive intention or pointing at a positive effect). Yet another technique is Mutualizing. Finally, there is the technique of Creating an expectation of positive change.

6. Improve your compliments
: compliments can be great tools (read this). Specific techniques help you to compliment effectively, like Indirect compliments, Affirming questions, Process compliments, and the The ABC of compliments.

More and more, I am beginning to believe that improving your language is an excellent way of improving the quality of your life.

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