Everybody Does It (Do You?)
Your perspective, the way you see the world, can influence your language, the way you use words. But your language can also influence your perspective.
If you’d like to think bigger about who you are and what you offer the world, then just a small change in your choice of words may open up whole new worlds.
A number of years ago, while speaking with my teacher, I made a statement declaring, “Everybody’s like that.” My teacher replied, “Are they?” “Well…I guess…no, not really,” I stammered. He asked me if I would be open to observing my language for the use of generalities and declarative statements that were not empirically based. I agreed and was surprised by what I found.
You too, may be surprised by how often you use declarative statements that don’t allow room for alternatives or other possibilities.
Notice my choice of words in this post thus far. The above sentence leaves room for an alternative by suggesting that, “You might be surprised” rather than “You will be surprised.” Earlier I said that a “small change in your choice of words, may open up whole new worlds,” and that “the way you see the world can influence your language” and that “your language can also influence your perspective.”
You’ll often find declarative and general statements in the language of marketers, especially aggressive marketers. “This is the only thing you’ll ever need to learn and the only thing you’ll ever need to know and the only thing you’ll ever need to do…”
From the marketer’s perspective, that kind of language is often designed to close you off to the possibility that it might not be the right product for you and that it might, in fact, not help you. Sure, you’ll often see “may” and “should” used to reduce the marketer’s liability but, for the most part, marketers try to close off your thinking so that you focus only on what they are suggesting you buy into.
I imagine that you don’t care much for that kind of language when it’s directed at you. Although, you might love it, I don’t know. But, putting that aside for the moment, think about how your mind might react if all of the language you used included declarative statements.
If you emphatically declare, “All men are like that,” or “I can never trust again,” how are you going to create space in your mind, your perspective, for a man that does meet your expectations?
If you generalize that, “All rich people are snobs,” how are you going to see yourself as a wealthy person so that you can improve your professional and financial status?
If you state that “All liberals are socialists,” or that “All Tea Party members are crazies,” how do you come together to make things better?
Often these viewpoints are a reflection of something that scares us but even the simple, little things can make a difference. When you say something like, “You didn’t take out the trash,” the other person is immediately accused of doing something wrong. However, if you say, “It seems like you didn’t take out the trash. Am I correct?” you leave room for an alternative.
So does the way you see the world influence your choice of words or does your choice of words influence the way you see the world? I believe it’s both.
Often, it’s suggested that you simply change your actions to get better results. However, if your worldview doesn’t change to support the new actions, you may find it difficult to sustain the new actions. Moreover, it can be difficult to simply say, “Ok, as of today I’m going to see the world in a different way,” if your language doesn’t support the change.
If you’d like to quite smoking but every time you attempt the feat, you find yourself repeating, “I can’t get through the day without a cigarette,” how do you think it influences the way you see the world and the outcome of your effort? By making a slight change in your language to something like, “It’s been hard to get through the day without a cigarette,” leaves room for the possibility that it is doable.
If you’d like to lose weight but you consistently say things like, “Oh, I could never do without my chocolate fix,” how do you think it influences the way you see the world and your waistline? Instead, trying saying, “I am used to having a chocolate fix.” That slight change alone might open up the possibility that you can live without it.
If you want to build a business and hear yourself saying things like, “Marketing takes too much time,” or “Getting clients is just hard,” or “Every time I get a lead, ‘this’ happens,” how do you think it influences the way you see the world and influences the actions you take?
Using different language like, “I’ve found that when I get a lead this has been happening,” allows you to explore alternatives. Instead of generalizing that “marketing takes too much time,” saying, “I’ve found that marketing has taken me a lot of time,” might leave room for exploration. And, well, saying, “Getting clients is just hard,” doesn’t seem like it will help the situation, now does it?
I would venture a guess that you have made a declarative statement or two over the years. I know I have. I now do my best not to. But when I do, I try to catch myself and amend my statement.
Whether it’s on little things or big things, all generalities are false (including that one).
And just think about how your choice of words makes the world see you.