Words Matter

Whether it’s your inside or outside voice, what you say to yourself and others deserves considerable thought.

As someone who occasionally opens his mouth before it’s connected to his brain, I can vouch for the challenges that can cause.

A fellow executive coach whom I respect recently said something interesting to me. He was on a mission to eradicate “no” language from the executives he coached, such as, “That doesn’t work,” “I’m not good at that,” “That’s not possible,” “We can’t raise prices” or “I can’t” and replace it with something such as, “In the past ….” Do you see the difference?

“In the past, I wasn’t courageous enough to try that,” is much different than saying, “That won’t work.” “In the past, I avoided tough conversations” is much different than, “I’m not good at conflict.”

I bet you frequently make three negative statements that prevent you from getting to the next level — whatever that may be for you. (There are more than three, but three is a good place to start!)

This activity can help you identify them: Over the next week, develop a consciousness around those situations where you feel defensive, angry or confused, and write them down. At the end of the week, look at them and identify the underlying thought (words) that created the situation. Then flip it and identify what the opposing thought is. Is it possible that this thought might be more correct or at least partially correct?

You might flip, “I’m not good at conflict,” to “I’m not experienced at these situations” or “In the past, I avoided these situations.” The next steps are much different based on what your words are. If you say, “I’m not good at _______,” the logical thing might be to avoid it in the future. If you say, “I’m not experienced at _______,” the next step might be to gain some understanding and experience.

Life throws many challenges in our path. There’s no need to create them on our own!

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  • Dave Turner

    11:51 am January 2, 2018

    Love this notion. Our world is FILLED with too much negativism… from our politicians we hear it manifest as “I wont”, “You can’t”, “I won’t let you”, or “I will stop you”. What would it take to get them apply some of your suggested different phrases like “I can’t stand you”… hasn’t worked… what if we try “In the past I haven’t listened to you… what might we work on together?”

    • Todd Ordal

      12:06 pm January 2, 2018

      Thanks, Dave!

  • Paul Hoyt

    3:06 pm January 2, 2018

    Todd, I often talk about the power of the words we choose. I started modifying my internal and external dialogue years ago by replace “anxious” with “eager”. So instead of saying “I’m anxious to get there!” I started saying “I’m eager to get there!” The energy is much different.

    Keep your missives coming! I love ’em!

    – Paul

    • Todd Ordal

      3:35 pm January 2, 2018

      Wonderful example, Paul! I’m going to eagerly steal that one!

  • Tom Holmes

    4:20 pm January 2, 2018

    Great article as usual. (Hope some of our politicians see this! During tax reform, it was terrible.) A framework which likely would help implement this concept is “Crucial Conversations.”

    • Todd Ordal

      4:58 pm January 2, 2018

      Thanks, Tom!

  • Janet Fogarty

    12:19 pm January 16, 2018

    Spot on. I’m usually trying to watch this – current project is to replace “I’m so busy” with “I’m really full”.

    • Todd Ordal

      1:52 pm January 16, 2018

      …or “I’m having a good deal of success right now!” Good one, Janet!