Sometimes the words are not as important to us as the giver of those words. My mother has a way with words. When I was young and needed discipline, she would emphasize every syllable of her reprimand or new instruction with the swing of the paddle or switch. “Do not ever put that cat in the dryer again, or I will beat you silly.” I am glad it was that cat, not say a pet hippopotamus that I put in the dryer.
I have teenaged boys of my own now. I know what she meant when she said I would “pay for my raisin'”. But our communication is a bit more neanderthal albeit clearly understood. I just look my son in the eye and shout, “BOY!” Enough said. Whatever he was doing… or about fixin to do… he is now aware that I know and he is busted.
I think we can each recall that person in our life, whether today or from our childhood, whose correction, criticism, encouragement, endorsement or admonition we would hang our hat on.
If your boss said to you, “Hey great job on that project, I was truly impressed.”
If your significant other said, “I was wrong and I am so glad you did not make me a fool for what I said. Thank you.” It is no longer just the words and their validity.
The speaker’s credibility can overshadow validity and motivation. Those words, coming from them, have a profound impact on how you react, how you respond and what you do with them.
Let me challenge you for a moment. Have you ever considered the things you say to yourself?
- I am never going to pass this test
- I will never get that promotion
- I am not smart enough
- I am not attractive enough
- I will never be loved like that
- She will never forgive me for that
- I am a loser
Am I alone? Raise your hand if you have ever spoken those words or anything like them. It does not matter if you spoke them out loud or only in your head. Even if no one else ever heard you.
See here is a thing you have to know about spoken words. Validity is assumed, then dis-proven. When someone says something to you, your initial response is to expect the best in people. You expect they would not intentionally mislead you. You expect that what they say is with pure motive. You expect that the person speaking has credibility. Do you know what outweighs validity, motivation and the credibility of the source all together? Repetition!
We heard for months of a looming fuel shortage. Taxes were put in place to curb fuel consumption. Advertisements were placed in various media all over the country to slow the use of fuel. Small cars were in, big cars were out. Then suddenly, prices shot up, fuel lines began to pop up here and there and there was near pandemonium. That was nearly 40 years ago, most of our cars still run on fossil fuels. There are still millions of barrels of oil in storage and millions more in the ground. Don’t get me wrong we must find a way to produce and utilize more renewable, less destructive fuel sources but that is not my point. My point is this. Even when the words being spoken prove to be untrue, if they are said often enough, loud enough, and long enough the perception is they become true. At least we begin to act as if they are true.
This is true of words from family, friends, supervisors and co-workers. If you call a child a loser long enough, they will begin to believe it, eventually the will simply stop trying. If you nickname an employee “late Nate” he will not likely be on time for anything.
Did you know you can do the same thing in your own life? If you don’t believe me, the next time you are alone with some time to kill. Take your blood pressure or heart rate and jot it down. Then spend the next five to ten minutes repeating out loud (in your head if others might hear you and call the authorities) “I am locked in a small dark room with no way out.” If you are not claustrophobic, think of something that stirs panic in you and say it a few times aloud. Now check your heart rate. Do you believe me now?
Here is the beautiful part. It works in the positive just as well. Next time we will learn to Talk yourself into a new you.