The language we use matters … a lot.
It has the power to shape our reality … how we see things, how we experience the world, and how we act in it.
We tend to think of our use of language as purely descriptive. “The sky is blue.” And a lot of it is.
But the words we use actually condition our reality to a far greater extent than most of us imagine.
This is a broad, sweeping subject upon which many often mind-bending books have been written. That said, I’m gonna keep it simple here with a couple of basic examples.
The scene: A staff meeting. You present a proposal. Someone presents an objection. You have two ways you can respond.
- I hear what you’re saying. But if we don’t get going on this right away, we risk losing our first mover advantage.”
- I hear what you’re saying. And if we don’t get going on this right away, we risk losing our first mover advantage.”
One little word’s worth of difference … that translates to a whole world of difference when it comes to respecting the other person, maintaining the relationship, allowing the dialogue to continue, and finding an acceptable resolution to what might be a valid concern that’s well worth considering.
When you acknowledge that you’ve heard someone, that’s an important first step. But what happens when the next word you say is but?
You cancel out the acknowledgement. You invalidate it. And you take the person who’s objecting out of the role of collaborator and more than likely into the role of someone who’s simply opposed to your proposal … and maybe now opposed to you as well.
When you say and, you’re allowing both ideas to coexist. Both are treated as valid considerations. That keeps the door open to continued dialogue and resolution of the potential problem.
And allows for possibilities. But closes them off and shuts down the flow of thought.
This holds true for your internal dialogue as well.
- “I waited all year for this ski trip, but it’s raining.”
- “I waited all year for this ski trip, and it’s raining.”
In #1, you have a victim. “It’s raining … waaaaaa. This always happens to me.”
In #2, you have somebody who’s assessing the situation and what to do about it.
Okay, it’s raining. Kind of a bummer. So, what can I do here and now in this moment, given the circumstances?
Maybe something pretty cool if you start imagining what’s possible vs. dwelling on what you’ve been denied.
Here’s the bottom line: The world doesn’t just sit there for us to describe in some kind of neutral, objective way with our language. We shape our world by the very way we think and talk about it.
It pays to be mindful of the power our words possess. It’s the power to open doors or close them, build bridges or burn them, nurture possibility or smother it in the crib.
You are a creator. Language is your tool.
Use it wisely and well.
On a personal note, it’s sure good to be back. Still enjoying the baby, but ready to get back to a more normal routine in 2022.
Aren’t we all?!
Let’s make it a good one, no ifs, ands, or buts.