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How Can Changing Two Simple Words Change Your Day?

By Gregory Ferrett

Welcome to Monday

I ran out of moves on Candy Crush and was about to press the “try again?” button when I

What is the message you send to yourself each morning?
What is the message you send to yourself each morning?

noticed the message had changed to “give up?”

Being a person who never “Gives up” I felt challenged and for the first time ever I was seriously tempted to pay money to continue the game. The makers of the game, by simply changing two words, had reached out and pushed my emotional red button. I had to work hard to fight the emotion to keep up my commitment and never pay for lives.

I found it really interesting how a simple message could influence my decision by affecting my emotions which in turn affected my choice.

Is it possible this simple change from a positive to negative message could make me more inclined to make a certain decision?

Negativity Bias

Being positive is essential for well-being and success. When you are in a positive state of mind you generate a wealth of healing biochemical compounds. (see article How do laughing, kissing and closing a sale differ?)

To maintain a positive attitude we need to be careful about the messages we give to ourselves. Negative messages, such as fear of failing, can be a powerful motivator but more often they serve as a discouragement and can be harmful for your self-esteem and perception of self-value.

Research published in 2008 demonstrated the effect positive messages have over negative ones. This research shows it is not about the essence of the message but about the wording. A simple difference, as the one between “Don’t eat candy or you’ll get fat” and “Eat fruit and be slim” can produce incredible results.

Psychologists refer to this as the negativity bias. Negative messages tend to have a greater and more lasting impact and are easier to recall over a positive message. We also pay more attention to negative images, negative words and messages.

Newspapers, talk back radio and television news tend to highlight negative stories – especially in their promotion of upcoming programs or articles. Journalists look for the ‘dirt’ as they know this brings in viewers.

Why do negative messages work?

Negative messages trigger strong emotional responses by flooding your brain with chemicals to drive action. This emotion is forcing you to pay attention and be prepared for action. In the case of the change of message with the words “Give Up?” at the end of a Candy Crush game the words triggered a chemical response in my brain and I was being prepared for action. By ignoring the message I felt bad and was more likely to take some action, in this case pay money, to continue to play.

Feeding your mind positive messages triggers the chemicals that maintain a positive outlook about life and can inspire you and get you ready for action. Positive messages never contain phrases such as “don’t” or verbs that are associated with negativity. Positive messages push you towards giving your best. Negative messages, on the other hand, can discourage you and increase your level of stress, instead of promoting motivation and hard work. (read this paragraph again and you may feel your brain flipping with each sentence!)

What messages are you sending to yourself and others?

The difference in meaning between “try again” and “give up” is not great. The difference in emotion, however, is significant. The wording of “give up” is associated with defeat and makes you think less about yourself. “Try again”, on the other hand, suggests persistence and strong will.

All decisions are influenced by emotion, and our emotions can be easily affected by something as simple as the words used.

We need to be careful about the words we choose when we send messages to ourselves and others. Positive thinking and positive words will increase your mood. More importantly, those around you want to do business with positive and inspiring people. Choosing the right message will inspire you and your team to go on and be the best you can be.

Today’s question and actions

There are many ways negativity creeps into your life. To overcome this negativity we need a constant stream of positive messages.

Here are some ideas.

  • When you wake up each morning welcome the day with a “This is an awesome day” message.
  • Celebrate each of your wins and embrace positive feelings. Replay them in your mind to make sure you have them planted and rooted ready to grow.
  • Link a negative to a positive. When I am running I often feel like giving up, however, I have a strategy of linking the positive feeling I have at the end of the run and the extra creativity I get throughout the day as a result of the run – and all of a sudden I feel better!
  • Use sentences that start with “I can …” and “I will …”

Feeding your mind positive messages balances out the negativity the world throws at you. Take time to check the messages you are allowing to feed your mind.

Have a great week!

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