Words can be uplifting and inspiring or weigh us down with negativity and limitations, explains Marsha Egan

Let’s talk about the epic power of words. You know, those little guys we toss around every day without giving them much thought. But think again. They can be total game-changers, especially in terms of whether they’re lifting us up or dragging us down.

News alert: words matter. They impact how we see ourselves and how we impact others. They are the building blocks of communication, serving as bridges between individuals, societies, and cultures. Words can serve as uppers, uplifting and inspiring, or as downers, weighing us down with negativity and limitations. Let’s explore two examples of how our choice of words can impact our mindset and our outcomes, or our impact on others.

1. Opportunity Versus Problem

Take “opportunity” and “problem,” for example. One makes you feel like you’re about to conquer the world, while the other feels like you’re stuck in quicksand. It’s like the difference between getting pumped for an adventure versus feeling like you’re in a never-ending maze.

When we view a situation as an “opportunity,” we approach it with optimism and enthusiasm. We see potential for growth, learning, and advancement. On the other hand, when we label the same situation as a “problem,” we are more apt to feel like something needs to be fixed, or worse – feel discouraged, overwhelmed, and defeated. Our focus can quickly shift from possibilities to obstacles, from an upper to a downer.

When I coach clients one-on-one, the millisecond they use the word “problem,” I interrupt them and ask them to change the word to either “challenge” or “opportunity.” I ask them to rephrase the situation they are describing. Then I coach them into minimizing the use of the word “problem” in their daily conversation. The results are notable, and many times amazing.

2. “Work With” Versus “Work For”

Similarly, consider the distinction between “work with” and “work for.” When we say we are “working with” someone, we imply collaboration, partnership, and mutual respect. It suggests a shared effort towards a common goal, bringing a sense of teamwork and camaraderie. On the contrary, when we perceive ourselves as “working for” someone, it may evoke feelings of subservience, dependency, and resentment. Do you “work with” or “work for” your boss? Do you work with your direct reports, or do they work for you? Power dynamics can change with one simple word.

Words not only shape our internal dialogue but also influence how others perceive us. The language we use creates impressions, conjures images, and sets expectations. Whether in personal interactions or professional settings, our choice of words can shape the perceptions others have of us and impact the outcomes we achieve. Is your glass half empty or half full? Are you seen as positive and energizing?

Consider the power our affirmations and encouragement can bring. A simple “you can do it” or “I believe in you” can provide the motivation and confidence people need to overcome challenges and achieve success. They are definite “uppers.” Conversely, words of criticism and discouragement can hurt their self-esteem and even deter them from pursuing their goals and dreams.


Since our thoughts determine our actions, there is a powerful connection between the words we use and the results we get. By choosing our words carefully and consciously, we can shift our mindset, empower ourselves and others, and create positive outcomes. Words are not merely tools of communication; they are instruments of transformation. Even the little ones.

Our words are influencers. They can inspire or discourage others. They can inspire or discourage us. By choosing words that convey positivity, empowerment, and collaboration, we can shape our mindset, influence our interactions, and determine our outcomes. We can build others up. Let’s use that power to create energy, possibility, and growth. It is a real opportunity.

Marsha Egan, CPCU, PCC is CEO of The Egan Group, a Florida-based workplace productivity coaching firm. She is the author of Inbox Detox and the Habit of E-mail Excellence. She can be reached at MarshaEgan.com, where you can also read her blog. To listen ... (Read More)

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