Don’t Let Limiter Language Shut You Down!


Language, whether positive or negative, internal or external, loud or low-key, is extremely powerful.  The first step toward managing communication with the Limiters in your life – those people who seem to have been put on the planet just to burst your bubble and shut down your dreams – is to recognize how that language affects your behavior. Once you understand that even subtle slights can undermine your courage and confidence, you can begin to block those messages.

 Of course, it’s entirely possible that the person using Limiter Language is you. As you check out the examples below, think about the Limiters in your life but also your own self-talk, verbal self-criticism, and not-so-funny self-deprecating humor. See if any of these patterns sound familiar.

 Catastrophic language:  This includes dramatic, over-the-top or worst-case scenario language, such as the following.

  • This is so horrible that we will never recover.

  • She absolutely wants to destroy my career.

  • My boss is the nastiest guy in the entire world.

Undermining languageListen for judging words, name-calling or condescending jests.

  • Your brother is the real businessman of the family.

  • You don’t need to worry your pretty head about it.

  • You’re such a loser/jerk/wannabe.

Black-or-white language:  This is unreasonable either/or, all-or-nothing language that doesn’t allow for shades of gray, i.e. reality.  Look for words like always and never.

  •  You’ve always had trouble with money.

  • You’ll never amount to anything.

  • I won’t try that again for the rest of my life.

 Victimizing language:  This language paints a blaming, helpless, hopeless, “everyone should feel sorry for me” picture.  It’s often accompanied by whining and self-pity.

  •  I am powerless to change this.

  • No one ever helps me, I have to do everything myself.

  • Nothing ever goes right for me.  Why even bother?

Once you begin to recognize how Limiters communicate, you’ll probably notice that their negative messages are rarely isolated events. Limiters often have a favorite language style they use repeatedly to express their narrow and negative views. Don’t give in to it. If the Limiter is someone you can eliminate from your life such a long-outgrown “friend,” a mean-spirited neighbor, or a toxic acquaintance with whom you’re better off not interacting, say goodbye. Really, good riddance.

If the Limiter is someone you can’t or won’t give up (like a spouse, boss, or sibling), at least, learn to recognize their patterns so you can tune them out as soon as they start their tirade. Experiment with some pointedly neutral responses to that annoying boss or put-upon mother-in-law like, “Thanks, I’ll think about that,” or “I always appreciate your feedback.”

They’ll feel heard and you’ll feel free. Win-win!

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