Intentional Speech

Think about socially, positive, powerful people throughout time.  What words were/are in their speech?

  • Should (and nefarious nephews)
  • Why questions (and sneaky siblings)
  • Yes / No questions (and angling aunties)

The above family are mighty thieves of your ability to be a powerful and peaceful force in the lives of people you touch.

Difficult?  Frustrating?  Laborious?  Strange sounding for quite a while?  It may be that some or all of those are your experience.  The choice, in the moment, hourly, daily, weekly, and onward, is to become more intentional, powerful, and peaceful.  The below alterations will add finesse, effectiveness, and respect to your own actions, as well as others.

To start, focusing on Should, Why, and Yes/No will offer the most bang for your buck.  After that tier is solidly in hand, begin to focus on Tier Two words that create intention, power, and compassion, followed by Tier Three.


Tier Two



Watered Down

Just / only

It’s basically

I just did it.  It’s just a little bit off.
He/She/I/They/It is just like that
Just do it!
You’re only doing that?
It’s only a little bit.
It’s basically like this . . .



I tried to do it.  I’ll try next time.
Try harder.  Keep trying (can be judgmental or demeaning in tone/intention)

It makes me . . .

He/She/I/They make me . . .
When ____ happens, I . . .
Because of x, I did y.

Have to

I have to. 
He has to do it. 
It has to be done.



Maybe we need a ____. 
Maybe I will.
Perhaps I will. 


Powerful / Intentional

Just works when:  truly meant to limit the object, indicate a real comparison/similarity, or refer to something immediately temporal, like it just happened.  Indicating similarity works when both parties would peacefully and powerfully agree on the similarity, comparison, or simplicity.  Both is often assumed, yet less often true.

Can put an artificial box/limit around the idea/expression.  Confined and contained, idea/person is closed to further thought, exploration, possibility, and especially expansion/change.  Only can be cajoling or enticing, and when combined with the sentiment that someone should be doing something different, the effect is an attempt to limit the other person.  Just/only/basically can also make a task seem simple (and ambiguous), when simple is not agreed upon.  Remove the words, taking full ownership for your thoughts and actions.  Adds precision and clarity to express what just/only/basically means, with power increasing with precision.  Interestingly, John Lennon of the Beatles never used the word ‘Just’ in any of his lyrics!

In the sense of “attempt”/ “Let’s see what happens,” try is innocuous when the intent is positive experimentation.

Try has become colloquial speech that indicates anywhere from .01 to 100% of one’s efforts. 
As Yoda said, “Try not.  Do, or do not; there is no try!”  Be intentional in the level of commitment you intend to offer/execute.  Be sincere in your commitments.

Surrendering one’s free will and agency can get you off the hook, but it drops you into a quasi-comfortable, sticky morass which lacks potential, possibility, power and freedom.  Consider the subtle difference between “When you said x I felt y . . .” and “When I heard you say x I felt y . . .”  They key difference, more present in the latter example, is taking responsibility for how you felt, instead of blaming someone or something else for what you’re feeling (see NVC heart graphic).

Although still precarious, can refer to rules/physical laws accurately. 

Otherwise, give yourself back the power of choice.  I choose to . . .
Removing choice from others creates a power differential.  Can become a self-fulfilling prophesy when a person (especially children) hear that they have to do something or can’t do something. 

Uncertainty is a fine use of maybe/perhaps.

A weak request of oneself or others is not.


Tier Three

I feel like . . . (thought)

I feel like you . . .

I feel like people are ganging up on me.

I feel as if I can’t do it. 

Expressing a feeling as a simile works: “I feel like a tornado.”  Also works when one is indicating one’s SENSE on a matter (substitute “sense” for “like” for a while to train yourself – “My sense is that . . .”).  If substituting “think” for “feel” makes sense, you’re likely expressing a thought instead of a feeling. 

Expressing a thought using the word feel softens one’s words, inviting others to take them less seriously, as after all, it is just a feeling.  Are you in touch with the feelings behind your thought?  Feel is also used when one is expressing an opinion, yet not wanting to take full ownership for that opinion.  Remove the “like” and translate into an NVC phrase.


Still, he shouldn’t have done it.

But (implied still), it shouldn’t be like that.

I still haven’t done that!

Can be used powerfully in arguments when the intention is:  “also consider the follow point.” 

Although edgy, can be used to peacefully mean “continue,” as in:  “I still support . . .”

Still often precedes a judgment.  It rarely follows empathic listening.  Used to cut off discussion, rather than expand and elucidate it.  Can infer impatience, “We still aren’t there yet?”

I guess


I guess so. 

I guess that’s true.


“I guess” works when truly intending to venture a guess. 

I guess limits the conviction/power of one’s words.  Also used to indicate an action with resignation, “Okay, I guess I’ll do it.”




I’ll get that to you very soon

Soon enough

You’re really clever!

“Soon” and “very” are unspecific, and often one person desires more clarity than the other(s). 

“Really” can add direction and emphasis to what follows, yet does so with similar vagueness as to degree. 


Yeah, I guess so.  Yeah, okay.

Yeah, well I do this . . .


Adds resignation or hesitation to one’s words, usually without clearly expressing the source/nature of it.  When speaking about something passionately and positively, yeah does not have the right ring to it.  Also used colloquially to infer exuberance or simple agreement:  see next point.


You know


Kind of

I like really need it.  Like, it was crazy!

You know, like, when that kinda thing happens.  Stuff like that, kind of.

Yeah, kind of. 

When indicating a preference, someone/thing you like, it is appropriate.  As a “four-ish” letter word, like offers questionable descriptiveness and depth.  Like as an “unnecessary” piece of speech (and its cousins), can build camaraderie/sameness in certain crowds.  Initially, it can be helpful, but not necessary, for building rapport. 

Otherwise, it marks an immaturity in one’s speech that can be extrapolated to more than speech alone. 

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

What we’re all striving for is authenticity, a spirit-to-spirit connection.
Oprah Winfrey

To speak and to speak well are two things.  A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks. 
Ben Jonson

If you wouldn’t write it and sign it, don’t say it. 
Earl Wilson

Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things.
Dan Qua

People who changed the world through their speech

Mahatma Gandhi
Martin Luther King
Abraham Lincoln
John F. Kennedy
Barack Obama
Malcolm X

Nelson Mandela
Winston Churchill
Mark Twain
Thomas Jefferson
Mother Teresa
Oprah Winfrey

Albert Einstein
Franklin D Roosevelt
Kofi Annan
Susan B Anthony
Thomas Paine
Chief Seattle