Language opens or closes possibilities for how we engage in the world.
The common wisdom we all know about is being correct if we say “I can’t” and also being correct if we say “I can”.
Recently I worked with a new manager on her assertiveness. She felt that people weren’t taking her seriously and often ignored her requests. Changing the language she used when delegating a task made a huge difference to her effectiveness.
Manager: “So sorry to bother you, do you mind if I ask you a favour? If you get a chance, could you do this for me”
Can you imagine what is going on in the employee’s head? “Yes, you are bothering me and NO, you can’t ask me a favour. Can’t you see I’m busy?” Can you hear the begging tone of the manager’s sentence? The manager’s language tells the person being addressed that the manager is uncomfortable about asking and probably wouldn’t deal with the situation if the work wasn’t done. The chances of this employee doing the task are pretty slim.
Manager: “Please can you do this task. I want on my desk by midday Friday”
This a much better! The employee knows what to do and when it is needed. The possibility of getting the work done is much greater than in the previous example.
The words we use have a huge impact on how we experience something. This manager was experiencing difficulties with her employees until she changed the language she used when dealing with them.
The manager asked what would she have to change in order to delegate more effectively. Instead of saying, “I can’t delegate’, she looked inside to find out what to change so that effective delegation became possible.
Your language creates your reality. Depending on the language you use, you shut out possibility or you create possibility.
- Stop blaming others and take accountability. Rather than saying “You don’t understand”, say “I haven’t explained well, let me try again”. Rather than “You make me sad”, say “I am feeling sad because …”. Being accountable opens the possibilities for change – the only change you can make is to something YOU are saying, thinking, doing, feeling…
- Separate facts and opinions. Choosing your behavior based on your opinions or assumption closes down possibilities. Basing your behavior on facts gives you possibilities. Try this: write down everything you can about a difficult situation. Write down at least 20-50 sentences. Have a break – then go back and cross out all the assumptions/ judgements/ opinions. Write the remaining facts on a clean sheet of paper. Study them and ask “Now, what is possible?”
- Being present to what is, without resistance, creates possibility. Let’s say you’re on holiday in a beautiful, sunny place,and it pours with rain for days. “But it’s not supposed to rain. We’ve spent all this money, BUT now we can’t enjoy ourselves. Our holiday is ruined. There’s nothing to do”. Don’t go on and on complaining about something you can’t change. What is, is. Let go of the resistance and look at the possibilities. “Oh, it’s raining and we weren’t expecting it. What’s possible if its raining? How can we have fun even though it’s raining?” – possibilities open up when you let go of resistance and ask a different question. Now you can enjoy a duvet day – books, chocolate, rest, relaxation… AND, perhaps, the best sex ever….
Become more aware of the sentences you use.
Does your language close down possibility?
Does your language create possibility?
How about sharing your experiences with your use of language.What possibilities open up now?
“Anytime words alone stop you
from doing what is important to you
- change the words”
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