What Are You Communicating?

The language of our communications sends messages beyond the words themselves, which begs the question “What are you communicating?”


Recently a dear friend posed the following question:

In conversations with others, can communications (good or bad) impact a person’s confidence?

What are your thoughts?

My thoughts

The short answer is yes. The language we use in conversations with others not only impacts our behavior and confidence, but the confidence, attitudes and behaviors of the listener as well. To gain greater understanding of these impacts, it’s helpful to look at them from three perspectives:

  • Scientific
  • Self delusion
  • Genuine confidence


There have been numerous studies of neurolinguistic programming (NLP), the science of how language influences behavior, that show that language does indeed influence behavior. When a a person uses the language of gain, they gain confidence which results in confident behavior.

Conversely, the language of loss promotes doubts, fear and anxiety which diminish confidence and often leads to inaction. Many opportunities are forgone because of our natural tendency to avoid risk, while simultaneously undervaluing potential rewards.

The most successful among us quickly set aside their doubts, fears and anxiety in favor of their more positive awareness that they’ve never failed to deal with any situation they’ve ever faced. Nor have they failed to overcome the mistakes they made along the way.

Self delusion

Some people use language to delude others and, in the process, end up deluding themselves. I’ve seen people put a spin on the reality they’re facing in order to mislead others, then repeat the story so often that they began to believe it themselves.

I’ve seen that practice put into play, both when the person was putting a spin on the mistake they’d made or when they were being Polyannish…painting a rosier picture than existed. In both instances the person ends up believing the story they concocted which makes them appear to be confident. That confidence can have devastating effects on any listener who views the person’s confidence as a measure of credibility…which we’ve all done at one time or another..

Genuine confidence

Genuinely confident people:

  • Use the language of gain.
  • Readily admit their mistakes.
  • Quickly acknowledge potential risks.
  • Remain open to others’ perspectives and suggestions.

It’s this openness that separates them from the self-delusional.


As listeners, we can more accurately assess whether a person’s confidence is well placed or delusional. How? Questions and objections we pose to the genuinely confident are usually met with acknowledgment and a well-reasoned approach to dealing with our concerns.

These same questions and objections, when posed to the self-delusional, are met with quick dismissal or statements that attempt to marginalize our concerns. These reactions from the communicator are indications that they’ve begun to believe their concocted story.

For you

Pay attention to the language you’re using. If you are using the language of gain AND being realistic about the risks involved, keep doing what you’re doing. Your confidence and candor will assure that you’ll ultimately enjoy success.

If you’re crafting stories to put a spin on your mistakes, or painting rosier pictures than really exist, note that the most confident and successful among us see right through your delusions.

To overcome this tendency, each morning, shortly after rising, commit to being more open and candid about the mistakes you make and more realistic in your evaluation of situations you face. Then, shortly before retiring, recall the day’s successes in avoiding the temptation to put a spin on your mistakes or painting an unrealistically positive picture. In those instances in which you didn’t quite meet your goal, ask yourself “What will I do differently in the future?”

You’ll find that, within a week of this daily practice, you’ll be defaulting more to the use of the language of gain. You’ll also find that people seem to trust you more quickly and completely than they did previously. Awareness of these gains in credibility and trust will encourage you to keep up this daily practice.

For our kids

First, and foremost, live this message. Kids mimic the behaviors of the adults in their lives. When they see you consistently using the language of gain, they’ll adopt that language. When they see you readily admit your mistakes, they’ll no longer fear admitting theirs. When they see the trust and credibility you gain from others because you use the language of gain, express yourself confidently and yet remain open to others’ perspectives, they’ll do so as well.

The gift of genuinely confident communication is priceless. It’s a gift that will serve them well throughout their entire lives.

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Readers would love to see your thoughts and experiences in a comment.

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2 Responses

  1. Deanna Phelps

    Great blog post today Dale. You make a difference in the world. I am grateful for you and your clear and positive communication!
    Deanna Phelps

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