The Healing Power of Language

When you go to your doctor or physiotherapist do you leave feeling inspired to better health and healthier behaviours?

  • Do you feel reassured, hopeful and ready to engage in your own healing process?
  • Do you trust your health worker implicitly and diligently carry out their recommendations?
  • If you have ever had to have an operation, did you feel as relaxed as possible before the anaesthetic and trusting of the surgeon?
  • If you have ever had to have blood taken, were you relaxed and comfortable with the procedure?

The way your doctor or health care professional talks to you can reassure you, motivate you – or scare you.  Read on!

When you feel scared or vulnerable what is said to you makes an even bigger difference!

A true story

A friend of mine was anxious in the lead up to her first, and quite a serious, operation.

I worked with her to help her relax and feel trusting of the process, and to prepare her body to recover well post anaesthetic and op.    She met the anaesthetist and liked him, and she had also met the surgeon and was happy with him.

All was going perfectly and she was about to get her pre-med when the anaesthetist told her that some people forget to breathe when anaesthetised.

This sent my poor friend into a complete panic and the operation had to be delayed while she spoke to me on the phone and had me calm her back down.

I know the anaesthetist meant no harm, but as he hadn’t been trained in language magic he made what to me is an obvious mistake – he sabotaged his own efforts and gave my friend unpleasant and unnecessary anxiety to deal with.   If he felt it was important to tell my friend this in the first place would there have been a better way to put it – to get an entirely different response?   What about for example “You will be well taken care of and monitored.   All your unconscious needs to remember is to relax and breathe!   And we will be watching over you to make sure you do!”

Language is hypnotic!

One of the interesting things I got from learning NLP and hypnosis is how we process what we hear.

Test this for yourself by trying on how you might feel, if the following two things that one of my friends might say to me when I go to visit, were said to you:

  • “Hi – you look great.   Have you been on holiday?”
  • “Hi – you look tired.   Come in and I will get you a whiskey”

In the first example I light up in response.   I feel like I am glowing with health and as I imagine how relaxed I must look I unconsciously scan my body for where it feels relaxed and notice the good feeling inside.   It makes me smile and feel energised.   Have you ever been told you look great or like you have just come back from holiday?   How does it feel for you?

In the second example I slump in response.   I unconsciously scan for where I feel tired and imagine that I must look worn – and I am sure the expression on my face reflects those feelings and thoughts.

Both are intended to convey care and love for me, but one helps me feel better and one gets me focused on how tired I am and leaves me feeling down.

“The way you speak to people directs their attention on the inside and either supports their best interests – or not”.

I have many examples of when health workers have sabotaged their own desire to help patients by saying things that point their patient’s attention in an unhelpful direction.   Some people respond really well to being told what to avoid and others respond far better to what to aim for!   Another example might be to notice how you feel about something mundane – just to test the principle:

  • “If you do the dishes now you will feel great when you come home to a clean kitchen”
  • “If you don’t do the dishes now you will come home to a dirty mess”

Which one of those statements motivates you more to do the dishes sooner rather than later?

Once you work out which one motivates you more and leaves you feeling better try asking a few friends!   You might find that there is some variety in response.   And once you know how to listen to your clients’ language you will know just what to say to get the response you want!


These are just examples of the difference that can be made by the words you choose and once you know the secrets of how to know what to say it all becomes so much easier to get the responses you want.   It is simple – but you need to know what to pay attention to and how your words are likely to impact your patients.

I am glad to say that many doctors and health workers have now trained in NLP but for all the health workers who have not learned these skills, I am busy putting together a simple ‘how to’ guide with my good friend and neighbouring GP – if you are a health worker then do look out for that!

Or come along to the talk I am giving in London on 4th May and learn some basic essential language skills.    Learning these sorts of language skills will help you to help your patients more effectively and in less time.    And in this day and age where time is at such a premium this is an invaluable skill.

For more information on the London Talk – here is the link:

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