By now, you’ve probably heard the term ‘positive psychology’. I became aware of it about a year ago and I’ve been hearing it everywhere since. Talk about a cognitive bias.
Positive psychology, for those of you who don’t know, is basically the study of how to be happy. Or at least, the study of how happy people are happy, and what we can learn from them.
And when I say them, I mean ‘us’, because I’m totes in the happy camp. An actual positive psychologist actually told me this, so it must be an actual fact.
There are many schools of research within this branch of psych, but I have a plain and simple (and rather unscientific) theory around the how of being happy. And if you ask me, it’s all in the language.
(Change the record, Kris, seriously.)
But it is!
Recently, I was editing a business book for a highly esteemed and experienced entrepreneur. The book was jam-packed with rich content, but something made the first read-through heavy. When I got to the chapter on wellbeing in your business, the author confessed he was more of a pessimist than an optimist, which meant he had to work harder on being resilient in his business.
In an instant, I got where the heavy feeling was coming from. The words he was using conveyed this very side of his personality.
And yet, when I’d spoken to him on the phone, there hadn’t been an ounce of pessimism. He was go-getting, confident, and incredibly down to earth. Not to mention Australian. So without being too stereotypical, it’s fair to say he was pretty laid back.
That was his voice when speaking. But not when writing.
I tuned into this mismatch. Even though part of his pessimistic personality was creeping in, I very carefully edited out the negativism, to sync with the higher vibe I’d experienced in person.
Need an example? I whittled 48 occurrences of the word ‘unfortunately’ down to just 2.
You see, our readers don’t want to hear bad news. Even if we’re in the business of delivering difficult feedback or more realistic outcomes for them, the way the reader feels after having it delivered in positive terms is very different to the way they respond to 48 unfortunatelies.
So I’d love you to answer this question:
How do you want your reader to feel when they read your writing?
Depressed? Discouraged? Helpless?
Nope, didn’t think so. So dial down the negative news. Kill dull words and sad delivery.
We can shape the world around us with the words we use. Honestly, language makes the biggest difference to our reality. And it’s within our control.
So I’m staking a claim on positive linguistics.
Let’s put more wonderful out in our web words and take action towards copy that sings, not sighs; that glows, not groans.
To help, I’ve whipped up a list of positive adjectives for you to download. (It’s FREE! And no email opt-in required.)
Get your happy word list here.
Next up, I’d love you to do this happy word exercise.
10 fave feel-good words
voice, wanderlust, clarity, exotic, adventurous, enthusiasm, expressive, luxury, language, style
Mm-mmm. I can’t get enough of them. I use them as often as I can in sculpting my signature style.
I like to think of it as design by words.
If you’d like to take it a step further, change your negatives too!
Choose 10 words that make you feel dull and down on yourself. Make a note of them. Again, try to notice when you use them this week. If you can, catch yourself and reframe the sentence.
I have a friend who is obsessive about catching her negative self-talk and will stop herself mid-flow if she’s languaging something that reinforces the negative behaviour in her life. I love that she does this. It’s powerful! (I’m so over self-deprecation.)
For example, I avoid saying I can’t do something because “I’m broke”. A much better reframe is that I choose to make something else a priority. It’s less about missing out, less about lack, less about making choices based on money you don’t have.
10 cut-it-out words
broke, poor, stressful, depressing, miserable, should, bothered, can’t, hate, always
Life is a whole lot sexier and exciting when you’re not describing a rainy day as ‘miserable’ or a full calendar as ‘stressful’, believe me!
Have a play with your words this week and let me know how you go in the comments below.