Sunday, August 4, 2013

Powerful Language

It seems as though language may be relatively limited in terms of its ability to help us communicate, as there are so many non-verbal ways to communicate as well.  Still,  the range of effectiveness of our verbal communication efforts seems remarkable.  This range appears to be based on various word choices that we make routinely and unconsciously.  By raising our awareness regarding some of these word choices, perhaps we may have an easier time being authentic and saying exactly what we mean.

You “HAVE” to read this next part…

Some of the more common things we hear and/or speak each day are “I really have to quit smoking…”, or “I can’t stop overeating…”, or “I should exercise more often…”  What about this one – “I’d love to stay & chat, but I really gotta get going…”  Perhaps you don’t “gotta” do anything.  Perhaps these are lies you tell yourself and others.  Remember the old expression “all you have to do is pay taxes and die…”?  Well, you really don’t HAVE to die…it just sort of happens to you, and you don’t even have to pay taxes!  Note one of my favorite Steve Martin monologues from SNL:

YOU......can be a MILLIONAIRE and NEVER pay taxes!  That’s right.  YOU can have one MILLION dollars and NEVER pay taxes! You say... "Steve... how can I be          a MILLIONAIRE......and NEVER pay taxes?"  First......get a million dollars. say, "Steve......what do I say to the tax collector when he comes to my door and says,  YOU......have NEVER paid taxes'?"  TWO simple words. Two SIMPLE words in the English language……"I FORGOT!"   

So, you really don’t HAVE to do anything.  Granted, there may be various, and often dire, consequences when you don’t do certain things.  You can make conscious choices to NOT do what many think you MUST do, and many often do so with a complete willingness to accept the potentially unpleasant outcomes (as in civil disobedience).  If you speak responsibly a bit more and pretend that you “have” to do all sorts of nonsense a bit less, perhaps you’d be communicating more authentically.  You don’t really “gotta” get off the phone.  You simply  value being on time for your next meeting more than speaking on the phone any further.  So, why not tell the truth like this: “I’ve enjoyed spending time on the phone with you, and now I want to end this call so I’m not late for my meeting.” 

You really “SHOULD” keep reading…

Should you REALLY exercise more often?  We all know exercise is great for our health; that’s old news.  Don’t get me wrong - I love to exercise, except when I don’t, and I DO enjoy feeling healthy.  So, who’s telling you that you “should” exercise more?  Is it really YOU, or is it someone tucked away in your brain that used to constantly remind you that you were a lazy, fat kid, and you should get off your butt and be healthy like your best friend (who, by the way, was sitting right next to you at the time you were being verbally abused).  So, take responsibility in your speaking.  If you decide you are ready to exercise more for YOU, then speak the truth.  It may sound like this: “I’ve decided I want to get in shape, I’m a little afraid, a little excited, and I’ll do my best.”  There’s no “should” about it, so stop “shoulding” all over yourself…

You “CAN’T” stop reading now…or can you?

So you can’t stop smoking?  Liar.  This may sound harsh, and I AM telling the truth.  You are not being real.  You simply don’t want to stop smoking yet, and that’s another story.  It’s very uncomfortable growing, changing, and trying new things, and it’s painful giving up habits and pleasurable addictions, even when you know you are hurting yourself and others.  What would it be like if you gave yourself permission to speak more honestly about your habits?  I’m not suggesting that smoking is a great idea or that changing unsavory habits isn’t a noble cause.  I’m asking you to consider taking responsibility for yourself and speaking in a more authentic fashion.  It may sound something like this:  “I’m afraid that if I stop comforting myself with cigarettes today, I’ll fall apart completely.  When I think I’m really ready to quit, I’ll probably ask for help and support.”   If that’s the REAL truth, then who else are you trying to please, and for whom are you trying to manage your image?  Who else are you actually trying to take care of?  If you do it for them, you’ll most likely just resent them later when you DO fall apart... 

David Lader - August 4, 2013

Reprinted from

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