When I was in 6th grade, we had a funeral for the word “said.” My teacher
said asserted that the word was used too often and that if we just used our brains, we could find other words that would be much more descriptive. And so we buried said. I discovered a lot of new ways to communicate how a person is speaking that year, and I continue to notice the impact language has on our daily lives. I’m particularly aware of how many words we use that are self-defeating, discouraging, or just downright mean.
So here’s my list of words that I think belong in the ground right next to said (or that could at least be used a little more judiciously):
1. Should– Banish this word from your vocabulary. Should is just a cruel word that demands things be different than what they are. It turns you into a failure. Well, they’re not and YOU’RE not. Stop.
2. Need– As in “I need to do x,y, and z.” Need is so overbearing. Try to see if you can’t make it into I want to instead.
Example: Replace “I need to eat better” with “I want to eat better so that I can be healthier and feel more alive.” Sounds so much kinder and approachable now, don’t you think?
3. Have– As in “I have to.” But do you really? In truth, no one has to do anything. Try out ‘want’ here too. Or if it’s more appropriate, just realize that you’re really not obligated to do it!
4. Try — As in, “I’ll try to do x,y, and z.” As Yoda says, “Do or do not, there is no try.”
5. Okay, so it’s not a word, but I also cringe every time I hear someone using a label to describe another person. I. Hate. Labels. They put people in a box and leave no room for freedom and growth. Do yourself and everyone else a favor. Stop labeling. Tell someone they’re athletically talented if you must, but resist identifying them as “the athlete.” Let them know they did a great job on that exam, but don’t turn them into “the smart one.” People are more than what they do. Recognize the inner strengths that helped them to achieve whatever it is you admire or are proud of.
Try some of these out and see how it affects you. Lots of times when I’m REALLY dreading doing something, I notice I’m telling myself I have to do it. But as soon as I take out the “I have to,” I realize I actually DO want to do it after all! Language is powerful that way.