Your language, your reality.

VEwaxbillI met a man when I was young. Although our relationship didn’t last there was something he gave me that could never be taken away.

He gave me a brand new, sparkling reality that I had never experienced before.

Allow me to explain.

It was a crisp, winter’s morning. We left home while it was dark. The coffee and rusks were ready and our favourite music played quietly as we set off on our holiday to the Kruger National Park.

I had been to Kruger quite a few times with my parents so I knew what to expect. But what this man had that my parents didn’t have was a thorough knowledge of ornithology. That word was not even in my vocabulary!

If it’s not in your vocabulary, then it doesn’t exist for you!

As we entered the park, I felt the sense of excitement and anticipation. Beer and biltong is a must when you enter the park so we purchased those first. With our seat belts off, the sense of freedom made us feel slightly giddy (or was that the beer?). We got the binoculars and books out so that we were ready to identify whatever we happened to see. We chose to drive along a small, dusty road towards our camp.

Suddenly he stopped the car.

“Look! Look….”

I looked into the bush but couldn’t see anything. Why is he so excited I wondered as I shot him a questioning look.

He pushed the binos into my hands, whispering, “Look through here”.

As I looked through the binos a new world rushed at me. The little bird took my breath away – red bill and eye-ring, violet cheeks, russet body and a shimmery, blue back.

“It’s a violet-eared waxbill.”

How come I never seen this bird before?

The rest of the holiday was filled with new sightings for me – and a whole new language.

Suddenly I was seeing more in the bush than I’d ever seen before. How fascinating !

Before this man came into my life, birds existed, but not in my reality. I had limited language to describe this aspect of the bush – there’s a  big bird, a small one, a brown one, a white one.

My new language included ornithology, seed-eaters, waders, wattles, raptors, vents – I could go on and on….

Once I learnt the new language, a whole new reality opened up for me. A world that didn’t exist for me before, was now apparent. Without the language, this world was unable to come into being for me,  even though it existed.

Language creates reality. How fascinating is that?

What does this mean for you and me?

The language we use to describe things creates the meaning we have of those things.

In those days a bush holiday meant relaxing and looking for animals – hopefully lions, elephants, rhinos, buffaloes and leopards. Now a bush holiday means those things and much, much more.

If you want to change your reality about something, look at the language you are using to describe it.

Change the language so that it brings a different meaning.

A client of mine was having difficulty with a colleague at work. He viewed their meetings as a battle and he went in there covered in armor ready to fight and defend. Once he changed his perspective of the meeting to one where it was a challenge and an opportunity to practice his negotiation skills, the meetings went more smoothly.

You create meaning with your language. Look at areas of your life that are not working that well. What different language can you use to describe the situation or the person? What difference will it make to how you experience the situation or person?

Experiment with the words you use to describe people. Make them stronger or weaker. How does this affect your interactions.

How can you use this technique to get more out of your life?

 

 

About Kirsten Long

Coach. Toastmaster. Prison-worker. Wife. Mother. Friend.

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