Five simple ways that using kind words can benefit how you and others feel
Can the words we use completely change how we feel? If you find yourself using negative words – such as “hate”, “don’t” or “not” – chances are you’re going to start seeing everything in a less positive way. In their book Words Can Change Your Brain, neuroscientists Mark Robert Waldman and Dr Andrew Newberg argue that using negative language can activate our fear responses and increase levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. On the other hand, using positive words can boost our reasoning abilities, they claim.
What’s more, according to a 2016 study by researchers at the University of Oxford, when using positive language by practicing kindness towards others, it causes a “small but significant increase” to a person’s subjective wellbeing. In other words, kindness may not transform your life, but it should “nudge it in the right direction”.
Bethan Davies, a life-coach, agrees that giving compliments doesn’t just benefit others but “will help you feel better too.” Davies believes that both in life and business, kindness can be hard to come by – but it can be a powerful motivator. “Use positive words on yourself first thing, like ‘I am good enough to do X’ or ‘I will get that report done by the deadline set’,” she suggests.
Using positive words can boost our reasoning abilities and subjective wellbeing
“I’ve started engaging with people using phrases like ‘you’re great’ and ‘it’s wonderful’, rather than just saying ‘ok’,” says Elula Johnson, who works in policy. “I definitely feel like a more positive person just by using kinder, affirming words when speaking to people.”
While it’s not helpful to be artificially positive or deny difficulties faced by ourselves or others, becoming aware of the language we use can help us respond more constructively to our own and other people’s circumstances. Here are some of the ways you can practice using kinder words every day:
Taking a pause to think about how you’d like the other person to feel can make a difference. Where appropriate, swapping a blunt “regards” to a friendlier sign off, could help build relationships.
Image: Austin Distel
Keeping a thought journal is one way to dedicate some regular time to kindness and positivity. Every day, write three things you’re glad about. Even if it’s just a little self-congratulations for crossing off everything on your to-do list that day, you’re giving yourself some crucial positive attention.
Image: Aaron Burden
Using positive words to acknowledge when listening to someone else can mean the difference between a conversation having a good outcome or a bad one – crucial if you’re negotiating at work or discussing a tricky topic with a friend. While it isn’t realistic to keep a tally, it’s useful to be aware that Waldman and Newberg recommend using at least three positive words or phrases to overcome the effect of every negative used.
Image: Alex Holyoake
Sometimes you have to just tell yourself you can and you will, so try giving yourself a little pep talk in the mirror. Getting into the habit of positive self-talk means you’ll naturally begin to integrate kindness and positivity into your daily routine.
Image: Roberto Delgado Webb
It’s possible to deliver honest support and advice with kindness, even while acknowledging and not playing down someone else’s difficulties or mistakes. “When I’m telling a story about how I made a mistake at work, just hearing my friend say ‘you’re great’ is really kind,” says Johnson. “We both know I screwed up, but hearing her kindness makes me feel better.”
Featured image: Andrea Tummons