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These Three Words Might Be Making You Negative

A woman looking out a window.
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For those who love words, it’s not shocking to hear they have power. Turns out, though, there are three words that might be making you more negative. And there’s an easy, linguistic way to fix this.

Shape spoke with Scott Bea, a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic, who explained that the human brain naturally has a negative bias. Even if you don’t think you view the world through a more pessimistic lens, there’s one thing you might still be doing: saying, “I have to.”

Bea explained that the majority of American conversations are predicated on complaints. When you say you “have to” do something, it linguistically positions you in a negative headspace. It implies you’re being forced to participate in something. This is why Bea suggests replacing “have to” with “get to.”

“‘I have to’ sounds like a burden,” Bea explained. “‘I get to’ is an opportunity. And our brain responds very powerfully to the way we use language when we talk and the way we use language in our thoughts.”

Give this a try the next time you “have to” go work out or plan a get-together. If you can think of it more as an opportunity—that you “get to” participate in something—you might notice a slight uptick in your positivity level.

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is an Atlanta-based writer who has written about everything from whether Crisco is a good moisturizer to how to KonMari your space. Her work has appeared in Bustle, My First Apartment, and Make It Grateful. Read Full Bio »

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