Magic Words


I love the title of a book by the late Steve De Shazer, Words Were Originally Magic. Steve is the father of Solution Focused Therapy and he discovered that by asking different questions, his clients got different results.

Don’t we realise the magic of our words??

We can be mostly lost inside our own heads -talking to ourselves! The words we use both to ourselves and with others, can have a huge effect on our emotions and actions.


Take the simple little word ‘try’. How many times a day do we use it, saying, ‘I’ll try to get there’, or ‘I’ll try not to break it’? What’s the difference between those sentences and the following:

‘I’ll get there’ and ‘I won’t break it’.

Of course, the latter are definite, with a sense of purpose. Try indicates there is no definite purpose, and implies failure. Any time you use ‘try’ with yourself or others, you may be defeating yourself.

Instead, use a definite verb, like ‘do’. I will do my homework, I will do my taxes.


Another word we ‘should’ eliminate! Should implies that someone else is telling you what to do. By dropping this word you claim back your responsibility and your energy. Instead use ‘could’, which gives you the freedom and choice to do or not do.


Ok, so there are plenty of things that I definitely can’t do, such as run a four minute mile or play guitar like Eddie Van Halen. But in my own self talk, this could easily be filed in Room 101. Can’t is a self limiting word, and to me it feels like a weight on my shoulders keeping me down. If I simply don’t want to do it I can say I won’t.

Have to / must

These sound a lot like ‘should’ – when I use them, I feel like my life is not my own and someone else is running the show and telling me what to do. Now I use, I want to (or don’t want to) or I choose to (or choose not to).

I find this very interesting to note my own conversation and the way that using different words can have an effect on my feelings and energy levels. Give these a spin and let me know if they work any magic for you!!