How You Can Improve Your Life By Taking Words Out of Your Vocabulary

A divorce coach explains that when you let go of the phrases that hold you back, you can start to speak to yourself in a way that's positive and empowering.

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How familiar are you with your internal dialogue? The language you use can have a profound impact on your self-image, how you show up in the world, and how you live your life. Words have the power to shape your beliefs and influence your decisions. The way you express yourself, your choice of words, and tone of voice creates energy that either gives you power or takes it away. Speech has the ability to change perception. Making the conscious choice to eliminate disempowering words from your vocabulary can be transformative.

The language you choose can be limiting. You can change your beliefs by being mindful of how you talk. People often use disempowering words such as can’t, have, need, should, never, always, try, and but. Negative words are taken for granted as part of your everyday communication and narrows your mind in a way that cuts you off from other options and possibilities. Additionally, disempowering words have an effect on your feelings and behaviors. They diminish your ability to be the master of your destiny, create discomfort, and decrease the amount of energy you have to move forward in a fulfilling way.

Why set the intention of consciously choosing to use empowering vocabulary? Using positive language will shift your energy levels, elevate your power, and will help reduce resentment and drama in your life.  It will also enhance your ability to be a creator instead of a victim. You will become more open to options you didn’t see before. Implementing empowering language can enhance your strength and motivation you need to keep moving forward. 

You can begin eliminating disempowering words by identifying them and choosing to reframe your language in a more positive manner.

Disempowering: CAN’T                            Empowering: WON’T

CAN’T: When you say, “I can’t,” you set yourself up for failure because it means that you are giving up or that you lack the power. It implies a low self-image, helplessness, and a lack of self-control. Using the word also increases your stress level, blocks creativity, and your ability to problem solve.

WON’T: When you say, “I won’t” you assert confidence and self-control. It signifies preference and choice.

Disempowering: HAVE /HAS                   Empowering: CHOOSE /WANT 

HAVE TO/NEED TO: When you say, “I have to or I need to” you are relinquishing your ability to make your own choices and therefore become a victim. Using those words fosters the inner dialogue that creates conditions of powerlessness. Everything is a choice. You don’t “Have to.” You “Do” or “Get to do.” 

CHOOSE TO/WANT TO: When you say, “I choose to, or I want to” you acknowledge that you have the right to choose your path.

Disempowering: SHOULD                        Empowering: CAN/COULD

SHOULD: When you say, “I should” it implies there is a right or wrong way to do something. Thinking you might be wrong is not elevating. It sends a message that you are not in control or worthwhile and don’t want to do something. The word “Should” also signifies a lack of acceptance rather than encouragement.

CAN/COULD: When you say, “I can, or I could” you are reinforcing your freedom and ability to take full ownership.

Disempowering: ALWAYS/NEVER             Empowering: SOMETIMES/OFTEN/SELDOM

ALWAYS/NEVER: When you say, “Always or Never” you are trying to prove a point and become position based. Your goal becomes winning instead of understanding and positive resolution. These words encourage awfulizing and catastrophizing thoughts which deplete your energy and cause anxiety.

SOMETIMES/OFTEN/SELDOM: When you say, “Sometimes, often, or seldom” you do not box yourself in and create opportunity for openness and acceptance.

Disempowering: BUT                                Empowering: AND

BUT: When you say, “But” it causes everything that was said or thought before it to be negated. It often has the effect of changing a neutral statement into a negative one. The word closes off the conversation space or thought process.

AND: When you say, “And” it enables you and others to stay focused on your intentions and true to what you want to say or do. It allows you to remain more open and less defensive.

Disempowering: TRY                                Empowering: COMMIT

TRY: When you say, “I try” it means that you are unsure, indecisive, disengaged from the commitment, and it makes it okay to fail without a fight.

COMMIT: When you say, “I commit” you make a pledge that obligates you to a certain course of action. You work harder, you look for solutions when faced with obstacles, you don’t consider quitting as an option, and you don’t look back. Commitments are empowering because they influence how you think, how you sound, and how you act.

Speaking a positive vernacular requires constant awareness. There are four strategies to help you succeed:

  1. Be present: When you catch yourself using disempowering words don’t shame yourself, just remember sooner next time. Consistently congratulate yourself when you use empowering words.
  • Practice: Using positive words can become more habitual with practice. Some helpful activities include reciting positive affirmations in the morning or doing mirror exercises daily to reinforce the use of empowering words.
  • Shift: Identify disempowering words you would like to omit from your vocabulary and focus on the empowering words that will help to reframe your perspective, feelings, or understanding of a situation.
  • Focus on the benefits: Use self-talk to clarify how using empowering language allows you to feel healthier and more accepting.        

Using the four strategies habitually will enable you to replace disempowering words with a more helpful and productive dialogue. 

Any word that creates the illusion that you don’t have a choice disempowers you. Removing negative words from your vocabulary takes time, patience, and practice. It is possible and comes with great rewards. Consciously implementing empowering words makes any situation more tolerable, broadens and builds possibilities, and opens your mind to be able to speak from a place of choice and control. It helps reframe reality so that any situation can be more tolerable and enjoyable. The option is yours. Challenge yourself to speak with power to bring out the best in yourself and others.

Jennifer Warren Medwin, MS, CDC

Supreme Court of Florida Family Mediator & Marital Mediator


[email protected]

Jennifer Warren Medwin is a CDC Certified Divorce Coach. Her private practice in Pinecrest, Miami is called Seeking Empowerment: Clarity through Partnership. Jennifer specializes in working alongside individuals who are contemplating divorce and are fearful of high conflict. She partners with clients to develop the clarity, confidence, courage, and communication skills they need in order to move through the process. Jennifer is also a Supreme Court of Florida Family Mediator. She uses her knowledge of mediation and coaching to help her clients emotionally prepare for the dissolution of their marriages in the most organized, time efficient, and productive manner. Additionally, Jennifer is a member of the National Association of Divorce Professionals (NADP). In her free time, Jennifer enjoys writing self-help articles for Your Tango and Thrive Global. Her approach to divorce coaching and mediation is one that provides clients with guidance and compassion through a difficult time in their lives.

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