Powerful Language

As a behavioural change specialist using NLP based tools, I help people change the responses, reactions and patterns of behaviour that have previously prevented them from having the life they deserve.

These blogs are NOT intended to offer scientific explanations or supporting evidence of the concepts outlined in this discussion but rather aim to consolidate some useful perspectives and offer simple practical tips and tools for you to expand your thinking, find some useful strategies and enjoy the benefits that you discover in the process.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are currently in need of immediate and effective support for what may feel like an overwhelming position, please do contact me directly to book a private session. I am available for either face to face or on-line sessions.

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Follow the below link to listen to the brief discussion that we had on the "Mind Matters" show on Radio Todays "Miller Time Sunday Breakfast show.

Language is such a powerful tool, it has the power to change reality, and yet we tend to invest very little effort into understanding or considering the unconscious messages that we communicate in our day to day language.

Milton Erickson is one man that I would love to travel back in time to spend time with, his use of language, especially conversational hypnotic language was incredible! He was the first person to include hypnotic language and hypnosis into his therapy and we are fortunate to be able to learned so much from him. In the mindful language courses that I run we unpack many of these language patterns in an effort to make us more aware of the language that we are using and how it influences ourselves and those around us.

In this article I will discuss just a few examples of language that we use every day that we could adjust, to be more effective in what we intend to communicate.



Of course, our children go away from us and we want them to know that we love them, that we are thinking of them and that they matter to us. The intention is clear. The message is just unintentionally loaded with guilt. When we tell our children that we miss them we unintentionally communicate that we are in a state of "missing", that we are unhappy, when they are away. We give the message that their absence is responsible for making us unhappy therefore they feel responsible for our unhappiness. A better way to communicate what we intended may be to say:

"I love you and I'm looking forward to seeing you again and hearing all about the fun you're having."

This way not only have we communicated that we love them and that we are thinking about them . We've reassured them that they have given us something to look forward to which suggests that their adventure, visit or experience is adding excitement to our lives. We've also given them permission to have fun without us. By suggesting that we assume that they are having fun, and that their fun adds to what we have to look forward to sharing with them, we are encouraging them to make the most of their experience.


When we ask someone, "whats wrong?", we usually intend to communicate that we notice that something is going on for them and that we care and are interested in what is happening for them. The problem with communicating this with the question, "what's wrong?", is that in order to answer our question they are forced to look for something that is "wrong". the possibility exists that they are simply deep in thought. A better was to phrase that question is to simply ask:

" What's going on for you?"

When we ask in this way we are not imposing that there is a problem or that there is something wrong, we're just acknowledging that we've noticed a shift in their behaviour and that we are interested in whats going on for them.


It's clear that the intention of this statement is simply that the topic being referred to is something that does not currently need our attention. The problem with the statement is that in the process, we have suggested that the topic we are referring to it is something that needs to be worried about. A better way to communicate our intended message is to say:

"We can come back to that later" or "We can do that later"

By communicating in this way the emotional connection to the topic we are referring to remains neutral and it is simply a task or consideration that can be delayed until a more appropriate time.


Blame is something no one likes to feel. We're very often quick to want to "reassure" someone not to worry, that it's not their fault. What need to recognise in this statement is that we have only introduced two concepts: Worry and Fault (Blame). so even though we have said "don't" worry and that the person is "not" to blame. the mind has no other instruction, but worry and blame. A better way to communicate this, could be to say:

"Its ok, accidents happen and we can fix this" or "Sometimes things don't work the way we hope and I appreciate your efforts."

The idea is to recognise that the words, "not" and "don't" are treated as "silent" in terms of where we take the mind, rather focus on what you DO want the person to focus on. In the alternate examples we've introduced that, 'things are ok' and that, 'there are solutions', rather than worry and blame. The second example introduced that, things go wrong sometimes. This is a general rather than personally directed statement. It also acknowledges that their effort is appreciated.


Yes, I'm aware that on the radio podcast I was guilty of using this exact phrase in one of my examples... ( Oops... ).

So why is this statement counter productive? When we talk about "losing" something there is the presupposition that we want it back. I'm guessing not many people would intentionally seek out the extra kilos / pounds that they have worked so hard to shed. A better statement might be to say that:

"I want to shed excess fat" or "I want to be healthy and slim"


The statement that we can't do something is a closed statement that blocks out the possibility for that "reality" to change. One of the words that I like to teach kids, as being a "magic word of endless possibility", is the word "yet". By adding the word "Yet" to the end of the sentence it leave the possibility open that it is something you could still chose to learn if you wanted to. You could rephrase the sentence to say:

"I haven't learned to skate yet"

In this sentence you have introduced two ideas. the first is that it is something that can be learned, the second is that the possibility exists that you could still chose to learn it.


The intention of this statement is clearly to stress the importance of learning the times tables off-by-heart and motivating someone to put the effort into learning them, so that maths will become easier for them. The problem with the statement as it is, is that it introduces the idea that their success in maths, in its entirety, depends on their ability to succeed at this one task. What happens if they don't successfully learn and recall the times table off-by-heart? We've then set them up to fail at ALL mathematical concepts. A better way to communicate this to say that:

"The more they learn and practise, easily recalling their times tables, the easier maths will become for them."

Communicating in this way suggests that the task of learning their times tables is an ongoing process, that they can continue to improve at it indefinitely and that there is no set point in time that defines success or failure. It acknowledges that value of the ongoing effort that will make it easier each time they put the effort in. This instructs the brain to accept that they remain in control of being able to improve with their own effort and it accepts that it will het easier each time they put the effort in. As an added bonus we've slipped in that recalling the times table is easy, with the statement, "easily recall".


Again the question to ask is, what DO you want them to do? Perhaps:

"Play nicely"


Stating things in the negative is our usual "go to" of what we want to avoid. By now you'll be noticing that, in that statement, I have not given the listener any choice but to be upset. We could rather say:

"Id like to tell you something that may not be comfortable to hear"

In this example we have used the rule that we discussed previously, about the use of the word "not", to support a more useful communication. We've consciously acknowledge the possibility of discomfort, which validates what the person may feel about a tough conversation, but subconsciously we have invited the communication to be "comfortable" to listen to.


How about replacing this statement with:

"Its my pleasure" or even "Sure, that fine"


This article has just touched on some common phrases that we hear and accept daily. If you're interested in exploring the use of mindful language further I offer a course aimed at parent and one that is more general aimed at leaders and anyone who wishes to become more effective in their communication.

I hope that this information has been helpful, and you are very welcome to contact me with any questions or to find out more: e-mail:

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