How clean is your language? I am not talking about “expletives” however several of the words I´m going to share with you are four letter words. Today, I want to suggest to you that your words have a direct link and often reflect your inner state and that every thought you have has a biological effect on your body, your well-being and the stress you feel.

The reason that these particular stress words are problematic is that there is an implied threat when we  use them that stimulate our bodies to produce cortisol and adrenaline (the chemicals of stress) in order to combat the threat. 

All of this was quite useful 70,000 years ago when threats were life and death situations. Way back then, they needed all those chemicals coursing through their bodies to escape or kill the saber-toothed tiger. 

Now, of course, suffering from stress overload isn´t reason enough to choke your boss or run screaming from the conference room - though I've certainly been tempted a time or two.  

In contemporary times, we sit in the chemicals and feel our stress level rise or ignore it because we are so used to it that it is now our normal adaptive state. 

>> Quick! Do a scan of your body and see if you can become aware of any tension. Focus on your jaw first since at least 50% of the tension in your body passes through there. Then move on to your throat, your chest, your solar plexus, your stomach and all your extremities.

>> Focus, too, on your breathing because it can give you great insight into your internal levels of stress. High levels of tension are usually accompanied by holding your breath and shallow breathing.  

What Are Those Stress Words I´m Here To Share?

I have to, I must, I should do or be, I need to, I ought to…

These are the culprits...along with their evil cousin “I can’t.” 

Except for their evil cousin, each one has the threat implied on an unconscious level because it is not just “I have to”...

it is “I have to… or else TSTWH (“This scary thing will happen!”). In other words, if I don´t do it, the loss of something I have or something I want will be the consequence. 

We use these stress words every day in conversation.

You know...that probably, kind of, sort of, mighta, indirect kind of talk that sort of goes around back trying to get in. These words are on the low end of the power differential showing lack of confidence and conviction.

Why are we not aware of all this? It is in our language, in our literature, in our news, in our teaching, in our honored speakers and heroes

... and yet, it has become invisible to our ears and eyes. The use of stress words has a tremendous impact on the unconscious mind.

But Wait, There´s More!

Ever heard of the “The Big BUT Song”? You know, that:

  • I love you but…
  • Yes, but…

Another buffer word is “trying”. Please understand that “trying is lying.” Period.

“I will try to be faithful to you.” WHAT?! 

When was the last time someone said to you, “I will try to get back to you this afternoon.” And actually did? It’s rare.

Sing along with me, “You “made” me love you, I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t want to do it.” A case might be made that these phrases are the basis of all Country Music. 

I call it plain old victimization. 

Tell me (and be honest!)...

Can someone actually make you do something? 

How Words Can Shift The Way You Feel

Do this for me...say: I have to reach my goals. Now say, I want to reach my goals.

Can you feel a difference? If you´re like most people, one drags you down and the other lifts you up. 

“I” messages are extremely powerful because they express your own feelings, opinions and your desire to take responsibility for your life.

What Can You Use Instead?

Here´s a practical exercise for you: try it for a day and, if it doesn´t work, I promise to refund your stress =) 

Get creative and replace: I have to, I must, I should do or be, I need to, I ought to…


I want to, I choose to, I intend to, I commit to, I am willing to.

Remember reactive and creative have the same letters!

Hone Your “Clean” Language Skills

Focusing on and letting go of the stress words you use, not only helps you decrease stress and feel both empowered and energized, it also encourages others to hear what you´re saying more profoundly and easily. 

Have a goal of always using clean, congruent, empowering language skills.

It will take practice. The language you use now is very automatic. Your stress words are ingrained in your way of speaking. They´ve been with you for a long time and have deep neural pathways in your brain. It can help to enlist a friend to point out to you when you use the empowering language and when you don´t.

If you´re up for it, here's an extra credit action step for you: Dive into a deeper stage of empowerment language. For example, next time you see a sick friend, instead of saying: You look horrible; say: I´ve seen you looking better.

There are always better ways to use your words if you´re open to giving it a try. Focus on empowering language. Play with it. Enjoy it. Use it.

No time like the present!

If you´re ready to uplevel your coaching, I´m here to help.

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