Language has the amount of power that people allow it to have. For many people what others say about them plays a bigger role in determining how much self-worth they have than the things that they think about themselves. In society today, “the need for acceptance—and the fear that we won’t be accepted—remain powerful influences on our thoughts and feelings” (Formica). To be seen as popular nowadays, you are supposed to keep up with the trends, good or bad, and if you do not you are seen by your peers as an outcast. Whether or not you are accepted by people you are surrounded with can play a positive or negative role in the way that you view yourself. The words that others say to you can stick with you for a lifetime, especially the deprecating ones.
Many people receive hundreds of compliments in their lifetime, but rather than focusing on those, many people focus on the one mean thing that someone said to them, even if it was said to them years ago. A professor of business administration and director of research at Harvard Business School, Teresa M. Amabile, did an experiment where “she asked 238 professionals working on 26 different creative projects from different companies and industries to fill out confidential daily diaries over a number of months.” They answered questions and each day they had to say one thing that stood out to them during the day. The results ended up being that there were positive and negative events that stood out to them during the days that the experiment was executed over. The positive event that stood out “was making progress on meaningful work”, while the negative event that stood out was a setback at work that made the employee feel blocked from making progress. Amabile “found that the negative effect of a setback at work on happiness was more than twice as strong as the positive effect of an event that signaled progress” (Tugend). The setbacks more greatly negatively affected the professionals happiness than the progress that they were making at work positively affected it, just as the rude and demeaning things that someone hears about themselves can more negatively impact their feelings about themselves than the kind and uplifting words that they hear can positively impact them.
Language can either lift someone up or bring someone down. Many times what somebody says is based off of how they feel on the inside. Normally language that is used to bring another down is caused by internal issues from the person it came from. Someone who is insecure would most likely point out someone else’s flaws to make themselves feel better about their own insecurities because, “people who feel inferior will often puff themselves up on a pedestal to alleviate their own sense of weakness” (Whitbourne). On the other hand, language that is used to lift another up is normally used by someone who is secure in who they are as a person and sees the best in others instead of their flaws. Although people are still going to hear things about themselves that make them feel less than, if more people use uplifting words when talking to others, the amount of times that people hear rude things directed towards them can be lessened and they can start to focus more on the positivity that they are receiving instead of the negativity.
Formica, Michael J. “Why We Care About What Other People Think of Us.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 31 Dec. 2014, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/enlightened-living/201412/why-e-care-about-what-other-people-think-us.
Tugend, Alina. Praise Is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall. 23 Mar. 2012, www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/your-money/why-people-remember-negative-vents-more-than-positive-ones.html.
Whitbourne, Susan Krauss. “7 Things Insecure People Do to Try to Seem Important.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 18 Nov. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201711/7-things-insecure-people-do-try-seem-important.Tags: language RHS