Is your language blocking your success?

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By Dr. Pam Brill - "I'm burned out", "I've lost my drive", "I'm not interested", - these are words and images that sales pros have used to describe their falling motivation that accompanied their failing numbers. A sales pro in financial services, Chris had lost the passion and the spark that fueled him for making chilly cold calls and energy for the heated sprint to close the deal. With numbers down and still falling, Chris blamed the competition, the internal competitors, including the other sales pros in his division and the new kids on the block.

He also lamented the external competitors, including the Internet companies who had blindsided Chris' company and required them to craft a new strategy to counter the web players' competitive advantage.

Even with the company's new strategy, Chris could not summon the internal energy and drive to get back in the game. Finally it clicked. For Chris, learning to get "in the Zone" was as strategic as the number three. Whether you are pitching products, services, or ideas, you can put these three A's to use to up your success and to enjoy the game.

1. Attitude is key

Attitude is key - get a new one like Patti Labelle recommended. It's not about looking in the mirror and reciting that you like yourself - even on a good day that may be enough to drive you back to bed. Attitude includes your beliefs about yourself, the competition, customers, the things that you want to sell, and your reason for doing it. Changing your attitude means changing your beliefs so you can move past the beliefs that are limiting you to move yourself forward and back into the game.

2. Pay Attention to the words you choose

Look at the words that make up your vocabulary, or the words that you eliminate from your 'thought' balloon. The language we choose reflects our attitudes and also feeds them. Language that creates negative images of doom and gloom has a direct impact on the natural chemical cocktail that bathes the body and brain. In some instances, language can spiral us up to new heights and make us feel anxious. Alternately, language can spin us down to new lows where crawling out of the desk chair to make a call or meet a customer can seem like just too much.

When Chris took a candid look at the language stashed in his thought balloon, it looked ghastly. The discouraging contents included reams of 'don't's' - don't do this, don't do that - an equal dosage of 'shoulds' and 'shouldas' along with the 'gottas' that most of us cart along for the ride. "I gotta do email, I gotta do voicemail, I gotta do cold calls" peppered the start of Chris' day. On the backside, Chris wound down each day with a negative critique that provided little motivation for getting up and doing it again - "I shoulda called that person; I shoulda done my expense report; I shoulda done a more thorough report." Just listening to Chris' repertoire was exhausting - no wonder making cold calls and getting out to meet with clients was too much. Chris needed a language makeover.

3. Activate yourself by changing your language.

It's as easy as changing the words you use to make yourself feel better. While Chris' situation might seem extreme, most of us carry the same language around with us from morning to night.

Here are some more tips for a simple language makeover that can change your attitude and move you beyond belief - your own self-limiting beliefs as well as the beliefs that you carry that may limit the achievements of others around you.

Don't use 'don't.'

The brain creates images of the words that follow 'don't.' Replace every 'don't' with 'do' and see the difference in your results. "Don't forget the prospect's name" was a surefire message to Chris to do just that. Replacing this mantra with a new one created a positive image. Instead of using 'don't,' Chris said",Remember the prospect's name is Morgan." Replace your 'don'ts' with 'do's.' Say to yourself",I'll be on time", instead of "Don't be late." Better yet, be specific - saying",I will get to the meeting by 2:45 for a 3 P.M. start", tells you or other people what to do to be successful.

Build desire.

Ditch the 'shoulds' and 'haftas' and 'gottas' and replace them with the phrase that builds desire - 'want to.' To build even more meaning, tell yourself what you want to do and why. Chris generated more energy with this simple tip than fifteen cups of coffee ever provided. Suddenly Chris wanted to call a new prospect because each call brought a face-to-face meeting closer. Previously lamenting poor fitness, Chris built desire for going to the gym each morning. He started saying",I want to go to the gym to build my heart muscle and strong bones." This phrase provided more incentive to move than saying",I have to go to the gym to work out." And after a few mornings, Chris actually did want to go to the gym.

Review to renew.

Ditch the guilt-ridden 'shouldas' that can make anyone feel inadequate. Instead try this kind of debriefing strategy. It is a postoperative debrief based on consulting work done with surgeons who ended each surgery with a list of 'shouldas' so long that they made themselves feel bad. After each sales call or telephone call, Chris put the postoperative debrief to work: "What I did well was, I …. Next time I will…" Acknowledging and recognizing the positive things Chris did and highlighting what would be good to do next time provided a marker for progress and a way to celebrate the things that were going well. There is just one stipulation - make the number of things that you acknowledge equal to the number of things that you will do next time around to keep this simple equation motivating and upbeat. Stick to three or less so you remember them.

Change your language to change your mind and spread the word - talk to others as well as yourself in a way that builds desire. Soon you'll see yourself and others achieve amazing results, beyond belief. You will also find that other people want to hang out with you - including your kids - and to be on your team at work, at sports, and in real life. When you talk the way you would want others to talk to you, you will achieve amazing results and you will enjoy the ride. Oh, and remember to celebrate - you might even dance to the music, another great way to turn your attitude around.


Dr. Pam Brill, licensed psychologist, is a consultant, executive coach, and speaker with over 20 years of experience putting psychology to work in business, sport, and political settings. An expert on peak performance and motivation, Dr. Brill coaches others on fulfilling professional and personal goals. In addition, she is author of the McGraw-Hill book",The Winner's Way: A Proven Method for Achieving Your Personal Best in Any Situation [July 2004]." Dr. Brill has taught for Dartmouth Medical School and has consulted with Capitol Hill legislators, Fortune 500 companies, and elite athletes through her firm, In The Zone, Inc. Consulting Group. For more information on her speaking or consulting, please phone 603.471.9384 or visit:


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