Change Your Words, Change Your World

Change Your Words, Change Your World

Rob Hartnett 24/04/2020 5
Change Your Words, Change Your World


Late last year two good friends of mine lost their jobs. Both were in senior executive roles, had high credibility and I trust them implicitly. But words make a big difference in how they explained their situations:

Executive 1: ‘I was made redundant this week’.

Executive 2: ‘ There have been some structural changes in the business this week, and my role was impacted’.

Executive 1’s statement feels really personal. It’s as if my friend himself became superfluous, rather than just his role at work. His words sounded so harsh and negative.

Executive 2’s statement, on the other hand, is far less personal. By putting the emphasis on his role, my friend was able to com­municate that while his job is impacted (and that clearly impacts him), it is more about a structural change in the business than a reflection of him personally. Who would you hire if you were interviewing these two and they described why they left their last role?

A big game changer for me was realising I could change my vocabulary from ‘I have to do this’ to ‘I get to do this’. This sim­ple shift in words has the power to change your view of life, and can help you to feel more gratitude for your situation. So many people in life don’t get to do what most of us take for granted. A recent time when this thinking helped me was when I was writing my book It's All Possible. One day I found myself thinking, ‘I have so much on right now, and on top of it I have to write two chapters this week’. I deliberately changed my thinking to, ‘I get to write two chapters this week’, and the task shifted immediately from a burden to a privilege. How many times have you said, I have to get the kids to sport or I have to buy my partner a gift. What if you switched it to I get to from I have to?

When I work with people on their influencing skills, I ask them to think about what they want for the person they are try­ing to influence, rather than what they want from them. This approach works whether you would like a colleague to do some­thing, want a customer to buy from you, or even if you want your child to change their behaviour. Focusing on what you want for that person means you need to get clear about the value in the request for the person you are trying to influence. It also helps you persevere when you understand that the change you are sug­gesting will be right for the person (and not just you) in the long term, while they may be resisting it in the short term.

I can’t help thinking of a friend of mine, who never gets upset when the traffic lights turn red. He started calling them ‘go lights’ rather than ‘stop lights’, and it totally transformed his perception. The tactic of changing your perspective through language might seem trivial, but it really does work. If you’re feeling sceptical, maybe you have a fixed mindset about how language can change your state?

Mind Your Language

Think about the words you use in your everyday conversations: in your emails, your message apps, your phone calls and face-to-face. Which side of the spectrum do the words you use most often fall into?

Motivating Words

Yes - Opportunity - Free - New - You - Good - Great - Love - Growth - Commitment Guidance - Advice - Positive - Innovative - Proven - Now - Exclusive - Benefit - Upside Help - Benchmark

De-Motivating Words

No - Challenge - Can’t - Opinion - Costly - Expensive - Later - Waste - Not - Bad - Hate Delay - Busy - Just - Slow - Negative - Hard - Costly - Sad - Don’t - Poor

This is not an exhaustive list, and you should consider building your own. (If you are in Sales or Marketing roles consider building a list out around your products and services). Some of my clients use their list of words on posters or embedded in tools they use such as coaching templates to remind them to use power words when communicating. Even putting your list of power words in your phone’s notes app or as a pic on the home screen can work to embed a change.

Rob Hartnett is the CEO of The Hartnett Group and Author of the book "It's All Possible - how to lead an epic life and unleash the high performance hero within" he is contactable on or 1300 926 540

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  • Stuart Turnbull

    The right words can make a big difference

  • Patrick Faram

    So true!

  • Chris Bates

    We should remember, when we are choosing our words!

  • Adam Wright

    Very powerful

  • Lee Mitchell

    Great words to speak and live by!

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Rob Hartnett

Management Expert

Rob is an Advisory Partner at Global Sales Performance Company Miller Heiman Group. He is a seven times Global Presidents Club Winner. He is the author of three books on Business Growth and has appeared on a number of TV, Radio and Media channels on the subject of top line business performance. Rob is a former world & state champion yachtsman, a passionate cyclist, motorsport follower and an advocate for Men's Health. Rob holds a Bachelor of Business and a Post Graduate in Applied Finance & Investment from RMIT University and the Securities Institute of Australia and is a certified coach in Leadership with the John Maxwell Team.

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