More than words…


This week I posted on my FB page about language – seems kind of funny to think that the language we use can impact our day, but truth is it does, in so many ways.


Language shapes how we see the world, how we feel and how we are able to deal with certain situations. I am sure you all know of a time where you have heard a student say things like ‘I’m dumb’ or ‘(Name) is stupid’, and our response was most likely ‘Don’t talk like that, it’s not nice’. Our response is true, it’s not nice, but what we need to understand is what they say is what they believe to be true. It is an insight into how they see the world.

As teachers, this means we have an opportunity to have a significant impact on how our students see the world, themselves or others.

When we teach writing, we are great at teaching our students to describe things. We get them to use their senses, change words to something more descriptive or even get out a thesaurus. The whole point of this is to show our students how the words we choose have a significant impact on the reader, so instead of saying someone was ‘really cold’, we could use the word ‘freezing’.

Now this seems easy to apply in writing, but what if we applied the same strategy to our thinking? What if the words we consciously chose to use impacted how we felt, our mood and our actions?

I think it does.

Take for instance the word furious. When someone is ‘furious’ you imagine them to be and act a certain way, but if someone is ‘angry’ you know their behaviour and actions probably aren’t as bad. However if someone is ‘a bit annoyed’ they are nowhere close to angry or furious.

The words we choose impact how we behave. Certain words send certain signals to our brain telling us what we should do, say and feel. Our brain knows what ‘furious’ looks like compared to ‘a little bit annoyed’.

So if we tell ourselves we are furious you can bet we are going to act like that. But what if when we thought we might be ‘furious’, we instead told ourselves we were instead ‘a bit annoyed’? How would our mood and actions change then? And how quickly would we be able to get to a place where we could move on? I bet it would be a lot quicker than if you continued to say you were furious.

This is just one example of how we can use our language to impact how we feel. There are plenty more. Next time you think you are ‘furious’, tell yourself you are just ‘a little bit annoyed’ instead and see what happens.

Now teach this to your students.

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