Last updated: 09/05/2016
Words have the power to change your brain
You’ve heard the phrase ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’?
Well it seems that this isn’t true. Words do have the power to hurt. Thanks to psychologists, we now know that words can affect your brain structure.
Brain changing words
According to neuro-scientists Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.”
Warning: Death may cause stress
Fear-provoking words such as ‘death’ stimulate the brain in negative ways by making our brain produce stress-related neurochemicals. It doesn’t have to be fearful words either but words with a negative connotation. Brain scans identified that when a person sees the word ‘no’ stress-producing hormones are released, altering the functioning of the brain. Just seeing a list of negative words can make you feel anxious.
On the flip side, positive words such as ‘peace’ and ‘love’ also alter the expression of genes and change the brain’s cognitive functioning.
Show some love
Positive words relating to values such as kindness help strengthen the brain but these words don’t have as much physical impact as negative ones. The brain doesn’t perceive positive words as threatening so doesn’t respond as dramatically. This means it takes more positive thoughts and words to stimulate the brain. A ratio of three-to-one has been suggested. To build trust, it takes three positive messages or expressions to every one negative one.
Brain changing words are one thing, but it seems humans are hard-wired for language. The way we say something can change our behaviour and our grey matter.
Reframing – the Danish Way
Reframing means to replace unhelpful phrases with more positive ones.
Authors of The Danish Way of Parenting, Jessica Alexander and Iben Sandahl, note that reframing a statement has been proven to change the brain’s chemistry and improves the way we interpret fear or anxiety.
This has implications for how we phrase statements. Turning a limiting statement ‘I am fat and terrible at cooking’ into a more supportive phrase ‘I am trying to eat healthier and exercise more’ changes how the statement is perceived.
Using the power of words for your communications
Whether in business or building a personal relationship, it’s a revelation knowing the true power of brain changing words on your communications.
Before you next speak to someone or write a communication consider these points:
- Repetitively using positive words will help to build more trusting relationships
- You need to produce at least three positive messages to cancel the effect of each negative message
- A simple change in how you phrase your message can elicit a more positive response
It seems words really do have the power to bring out a physical and emotional response from your reader. They affect different areas of the brain and if used in a particular way, help you build trust.
Apply brain changing words to your message to increase its effectiveness and be more persuasive.