I’ve noticed how the language we use reflects our internal normally unconscious view of the issue we’re considering. For instance, currently I’m involved with a group of people, who want to change the Welsh government’s mind about introducing some new legislation. Someone suggested that we start a ‘fighting fund’. This supports the view we are in a fight and is likely to engender that feeling – and affect the group’s thinking, decisions and behaviour. I think a better term would be ‘winning fund’!
A different example is when we say that someone or something “made us happy/sad/angry/etc “. This is not only giving power over to the person/thing, but also not acknowledging a greater reality of “I’m feeling happy/sad/angry/etc “. Notice, I haven’t included a reason because any reason you add is just reflecting your thinking at the time about that person/thing and has far less to do with the person/thing.
For example, people say things like “I can’t move from this area because I’ll make my parents upset”. Let’s be clear, you have no control over someone else’s thinking or feelings! Continuing this example, the parents could equally feel guilty that their daughter/son stayed in the area as be happy that they stayed. The parents’ feelings reflect their thinking about the son/daughter’s action and not the action itself.
Research has been done on the effect of labelling children, such as academically poor. When a new teacher thought the students were academically strong students, guess what happened. Yes, they improved in leaps and bounds. The teacher thought they were academically bright and treated them as such. The language impacted the thinking which impacted behaviour.
When you give yourself a limiting label you are also limiting your possibilities. Recently, when coaching a person who is being made redundant, this IT person said “I like the security of regular pay as an employee, so I can’t consider contracting work”. He thought he needed security and, therefore, excluded a major source of opportunities. Six months before I left being an employee, I remember saying to someone “oh, I couldn’t go self-employed because I need the financial security of regular pay” yet three months’ later I easily made the choice of going self employed. It felt like a no-brainer. What had changed? My thinking, nothing else. So I know this IT person is responding to his thinking about the situation and not the situation itself.
How might you be holding yourself back with the labels either you’ve accepted from others or given yourself?