Positive Words Design Happiness

Thoughts give birth to words, and words change thoughts. Words can make people happy or unhappy.


In 2016, at the 31st Rio de Janeiro Olympics, a men’s fencing individual épée match was being played. South Korea’s Park Sang-young who was competing with Hungary’s Géza Imre was losing 13 to 9 in the final third round. He got a point, but soon lost another point, leaving Imre a chance to win a match point (the final point that decides the victory or defeat in a sports game). It basically meant defeat for him.

However, he scored more points one by one and scored four consecutive points, creating a tie at 14-14. And he won a victory like a miracle by winning the last winning point. It was an unbelievable dramatic turnabout. The decisive energy that created the great victory was the message he kept repeating to himself: “I can do it. I can do it.” What would the result have been like if he had said, “I can’t do it. The game is over”?

There was a boy who was branded as a troublemaker in his childhood. The child, who could not adapt to the classes in school, was expelled from school in the end. However, he later applied for more than a thousand patents and became a famous inventor. His name is Thomas Edison. Edison was able to leave his name as a great man, thanks to his mother’s positive and hopeful remarks. What if his mother always had said to Thomas, “Why are you so weird? Stop asking those useless questions,” while he was growing up?

It happens as you say

They say, “Thoughts become words. Words become deeds. Deeds become habits. Habits become character. Character makes a life.” Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. However, the order of words and thoughts can change, that is, words can lead thoughts. It is because words have strong power although we cannot see them or grab them with our hands.

First of all, words have an imprinting effect. When accepting new information, if we say it instead of just looking at it, the brain gets more activated. When you receive a business card from someone, if you read aloud the name on the card instead of just looking at it, you can remember the name a lot longer.

In addition, words have a priming effect. “When one is exposed to certain words, the premotor cortex (the area that combines the information that enters through senses) prepares to move according to the words,” said John Bargh, a social psychologist at Yale University. When you read the word “move,” your brain immediately gets ready to act.

Words also have an effect of achievement. When you say something, you make an effort to accomplish it. For example, when trying to quit coffee, it is more likely that the one who expresses his will to do so to others around him quits coffee better than the one who only makes up his mind to quit.

People who’ve experienced the power of words refrain from saying negative things. The moment you say, “I can’t do that” or “I’m wrong,” you lose your drive, but if you say out loud, “Okay, I can do it” or “I’ll give it a try,” you get your drive even if you didn’t have it before, and the brain starts seeking a way to make it happen actively from then on.

Muhammad Ali, a legendary boxer with 56 wins and 5 losses, used to predict his victory with positive words before every game. And as he said, he achieved victory. He felt the power of words. “Half of my victories were in words, not in my fist,” he confessed.

Happiness comes from positive words

The difference between a happy person and an unhappy person is in the words they use. When you look at what a person usually says, you can guess to some degree whether or not that person is living a happy life. It is hardly possible for a person who says negative things, blames others, complains, and grumbles all the time to be living a happy life. They might feel pleased momentarily from saying what they wanted to say, but they will go far from the overall happiness of life.

If you want to be happy, you need to start saying positive things. Just as people say, “I am not smiling because I am happy, but I am happy because I am smiling,” we don’t speak positively because we are happy, but we are happy because we speak positively.

The happy relationship with the family too depends on positive words. Dr. John Gottman, an expert in the field of marriage and couples therapy, had 700 newlyweds have a conversation for 15 minutes, recorded their conversations, and analyzed the number of positive and negative words that they used. Based on the analyzed data, he predicted that the couples who used negative words more than 20% of their conversations are likely to get divorced later, and 94% of his prediction turned out to be correct 12 years later.

Above all, parental language has a profound impact on their children. Every parent cherishes and loves their child, but the level of happiness the child feels is different, depending on the words the parents use.

For example, let’s say a child came back home after playing with his friends and said to his mom, “Mom, I’m hungry. Can I have something to eat, please?” What if the mom says, “Do you know what time it is? Why did you come home so late?” or “You’ve got to be hungry. Wait a minute. I’ll prepare something for you”? Which mom’s child would feel happier? It is important for parents to use positive language in order for their child to grow to trust the parents, have high self-esteem, and think in a healthy way.

Dr. Martin Seligman, who is famous for positive psychology, emphasized the importance of positive words. “A more important variable in life than ability or talent is a positive language habit,” he said. Negative words only make you and the people around you unhappy. Positive words free you from depression, heal illness, and change your fate. If you want something good to happen, design happiness with positive words.

How to speak positively

① Use a positive sentence instead of a negative sentence

Avoid saying, “Don’t” or “Can’t,” consciously. As mentioned earlier, words have an imprinting effect. So even if certain words have positive meanings, if they are expressed in a negative sentence, the negative expression is imprinted. If you say, “Take good care of your brother,” the words “take care” are imprinted in your child’s mind, but if you say, “Don’t make your brother cry,” then the word “cry” is imprinted. Instead of saying “Don’t waste time,” say, “Let’s manage our time effectively.” Instead of saying, “Don’t break your promise,” say, “I will wait for you.” Then you can have a pleasant conversation.

② Talk about possibility instead rejecting a suggestion

When your opinion gets rejected, you can be frustrated or offended. When you reject someone’s request, express it positively, considering the other person’s feelings. For example, let’s say your spouse asked you, “How about hiking this Sunday?” Instead of bluntly saying, “I can’t. I have an appointment,” you can say, “This Sunday? I’d love to, but I’m sorry, I have an appointment. How about next Sunday?” Your spouse will feel your sincerity. When your child says he wants to play, try to say, “You can play as much as you want once you finish your homework,” instead of saying, “Don’t even think about playing until you finish your homework.” If you talk positively, it gives much more hope.

③ First agree with what the other person said

It’s easy to say negative things when there is a difference between two people’s opinions. When you and the other person have different opinions, if you first say, “No, that’s not right,” or “But,” the other person’s feelings are hurt that he wouldn’t say anything more, thinking, ‘I shouldn’t have said anything,’ or he won’t feel like accepting your opinion even if it’s actually better. If you listen carefully to the other person and say, “Oh, that’s a good idea,” or “You’re right,” which makes the other person happy, instead of thinking only about what you are going to say, and then carefully suggest your idea, he will accept your opinion without feeling resistant.

④ Select positive words

If you use a negative word, it may sound negative even if it is followed by a positive word. When choosing a word, think again and choose a word that has a positive tone. e.g.) Fat → well-built, timid → prudent, impatient → passionate, sensitive → delicate, lazy → relaxed, stubborn → determined

⑤ Say words of encouragement

If you say, “I’m always like this,” “It’s annoying,” or “I’m tired,” your brain accepts them the way they are, causing you to feel negative emotions, and you come to feel discouraged. See if you’re using any negative expressions habitually, and try to say words that give energy and hope like, “It’s okay,” “It’ll turn out fine,” or “you can do it,” even when you are talking to yourself.

⑥ Use many expressions of gratitude

The most positive words are words of gratitude. When you are about to fall into a negative thought, the words of gratitude become a shield and drive away the negative thought. When you are having a tough time, say, “I’m grateful that I have a job,” or “I’m thankful that I am healthy enough to work,” or “I’m grateful that I can do what my family needs by working hard,” instead of saying, “It’s hard,” then you will have a positive thought.

In order to be happy, you need to build up the habit of saying positive words. However, you have to make efforts for it. You can strengthen your muscles when you train yourself, sweating. In the same way, you need to practice repeatedly to have a habit of staying positive. Unless you keep in mind the habit of saying positive words and make efforts for it, you’ll blurt out negative words.

Positive words do not only make you happy, but also make your family happy and encouraged. People who always hear positive things from their family pick themselves up and carry on even when they face frustrating situations. How about speaking positive words first to your family? You may not always have a smooth path in your life, but you can bring happy laughter to your family, with positive words!