4 Verbal Habits to Wash Out of Your Mouth

Whether we know it or not, we're doing these. Constantly. 

They cause so much unnecessary tension, conflict, embarrassment, frustration and strife. But we don't even know they're the culprit.  

Verbal habits are words we say all day long that end up slapping us back in the face.

This post is part of a series, because these verbal habits are so insidious that it’s worth going through one by one and spelling out exactly what can be done to reverse them.

Today we’ll just have a look at WHAT they are and HOW they taste.

A breakdown of each one will hit the blogpress soon, along with what to do to completely flip it (and reap stunningly positive results in your relationships and life!)

Here they are:

  1.  Embellishing

  2.  Talking smack

  3.  Sharptongue-ing

  4.  Flapping at the lip

(I’ve taken all the pretty out of them so we can see them for what they are.)

Once you see how I’m defining these, and you check your own mind and life, you’ll understand not only HOW MUCH we all do them, but also how deeply they affect our lives.

Just to be clear, we want to wash them out of our mouths NOT because we are righteous or politically correct or holier than thou or because these are not nice things to do.

My point here is that these verbal acts boomerang back in our faces, our relationships, our moods, emotions and lives. Maybe not immediately, but without fail, they leave a noticeable aftertaste.

Here’s what each one is and how to spot it coming out of your mouth (or taking up space in your head, which means it will eventually come flying out, when the conditions line up – like when you’re tired, stressed, jealous, worried, upset, etc).


Stretching the truth. Lying. This is when we use our words to hide something we've done so people don’t get mad at us. We say we were somewhere we weren't. We exaggerate our own qualities just a bit so people like us more. Or maybe we did something we know wasn’t cool, so we retell the story, shifting the blame to someone else. It seems benign, but it’s a slippery slope. All those baby lies we tell are the gateway drug to the bigger uglier lies that some of us get caught in.

The result?

Even tiny embellishments trap us. They leave a subtle undercurrent of tension that we might get busted. And that would be embarrassing. And since the truth has a way of always surfacing, we feel kind of paranoid. We have to actively keep the lie alive. Because how mortifying is it to admit you lied? So we sit on it, protect it, add other embellishments to the mix. We feel dishonest. We have a sneaking sense that people don’t trust us. And we also don’t fully trust others.


Also called divisive or disharmonious speech, talking smack is using words behind people’s backs to split them. It's driving a wedge between people who might otherwise not have a problem with each other. Maybe we feel jealous. Maybe we want to win someone over to our side of the argument. Maybe we feel threatened by someone and want to look better, smarter, cooler. Or maybe it's just a bad habit. We don't even know why we are doing it. We let comments about others' negative qualities slip out. We focus on their mistakes. We subtly mar their character.

The result?

If we have a tendency to do this, we know exactly what the result is. It doesn't feel good. And we live with a sinking suspicion that others are talking about us. Those who don’t talk speak negatively about others aren’t particularly worried that others are talking smack about them. They have a clean conscience. The reality here is that we never get the results we intend (people liking us more or thinking we’re talented or capable) but instead are just known as people who talk crap about others. Talking smack mars our reputation and flavors all our relationships.


Also called harsh speech, this is when the words we say to others are laced with anger or frustration, and generally make people feel like crap (whether we mean to or not). Sometimes we feel justified – like we are retaliating for THEIR bad behavior or we need to teach them a lesson. They did something thoughtless again. They cut in line. They are making us wait. So we tell them how rude they are. Sarcasm, sharp-tongued emails + chats, and even muttering under your breath all count here – any kind of communication that’s fueled by disapproval or irritation.

The result?

Sometimes sharptongue-ing feels initially gratifying, like we've scratched an itch. We feel like we HAD TO say it. Like the other person deserved it or needed to hear it. But people don't learn much when spoken to disrespectfully. I certainly don't. Plus there's the aftertaste we inevitably get. The regret. The subtle sense of guilt. We stooped. We lost our cool. Since the world is an echo, if the words we’re putting out are less than kind, we'll eventually get them thrown back our way. Harsh speech leaves us with a little dark spot on our conscience, a thorn in our side, a stale taste in our mouth.


Otherwise known as idle speech, gossiping or talking just to talk, this is when we just open our mouths and let it rip without thinking. We do it all day long. It’s a big habit. We do it when we're uncomfortable with silence or when we think we are supposed to say something, but don’t really have anything constructive to say. We just flap at the lip, not paying much attention to what comes out. We talk about what others are up to, the mistakes they are making, we complain about the president, we just fill up the empty space.

The result?

Talking without thinking is a careless act. And carelessness leads to all kinds of messes. We suddenly say the wrong thing and regret it. Or we fill the airspace with complaining and it begins to affect our outlook. Or we start by talking innocently about what others are up to and we are suddenly talking smack about them. It’s another slippery slope. Another gateway drug. I’m not suggesting we tape up our traps and stop engaging with others. I’m just saying that it’s good idea to pause before we open our mouths. To be more selective about what comes out.

So why do we do these 4 things?

It’s not that we are asshats or horrible people. It’s actually very simple:

a.  We’re a little bit insecure.
b.  They are a strong habit.
c.   Everyone else is doing them.
d.  We don’t know what’s wrong with doing them.
e.  We don’t know what else to do.

If we think about it, we do many of these because we want to be liked - but they have the exact opposite effect! The good news is that there are great strategies we can use rewire these habits into actions that produce wildly positive results.

Stay tuned! I'll go through them one by one. 

And until you get your hands (eyes, mouths) on these strategies, just start paying attention to how often your mouth is full of these 4 habits.

Just observe. NOTICE. Come clean. Own up.

So worth it. 




I'm having 50 conversations with women

Why? Because I know that once we round the bend to 40 and 50, our habits, fears, beliefs and doubts tend to run in well worn grooves. And at the same time, there's this glorious burst of "It's now or never, damnit! I've got to make these changes!"

So to help the glory win, I'm putting my heart, brain and mind-shifting coaching chops on any woman who wants to be listened to, for 30 minutes.

It will help me understand what’s really going on with women – the struggles, the aspirations, the challenges – so I can build my programs and courses to respond to just these needs/ wants. 

The full description is here: 50 conversations. Have a look and see if it's for you (your sister, friend, partner, etc)!

It’s free. No strings. No bull.

I can only take a limited number calls, so shake a leg and grab yourself a spot!

Please share this post freely, friends!

Sonja Shahan