Updated: Dec 1, 2020
The words you speak tell the story of who you are. It’s a simple, but profound truth that can easily be explained when you understand the impact of thoughts on everything you feel and do.
Sorry! So, so sorry.
I am one of those people who had a history of being far too liberal with my “sorries”.
“Sorry for speaking up,
“Sorry for presenting a different point of view,
“Sorry for being specific about what I want,
“Sorry for verbalizing my thoughts in such a verbose way… sorry, sorry, sorry!
Sorry is what you say when you do something wrong. When you make a mistake or a poor choice. It’s not what you should be saying when you’re taking time to do something properly, “sorry I’m taking so long choosing [item you are purchasing]”, asking someone to let you into a crowded space, “sorry, I just need to get in”, or any of the myriad of other situations in which an apology is not called for.
The beauty of saying thank you instead of sorry is that it allows you to acknowledge the efforts or patience someone else is demonstrating, without implying that being alive and being yourself is somehow bad. There is something incredibly empowering in that shift. Try it!
So, I was just thinking…
There are a few other expressions you might consider pruning from your daily speech such as:
“I think” …when it’s used as an introduction to every thought, fact, and opinion you state. Clearly, you think, you might also know or believe, but why do you feel the need to say it? Check yourself, often it’s to soften your message, to avoid offending someone, or manage being challenged if you present your thoughts assertively. I am still very guilty of using “I think” even when in fact I am speaking from a place of knowledge, not opinion.
“Just” …as in “I just wanted to say X”. Why? Because subtly you are placing yourself as a subordinate to someone else. The “just” is to let them know that you are going to take only so much time, room, or space in their world.
I’m sure there are others I have not yet considered. Personally, I’m working on “so” because it seems to litter my speech, both spoken and written for no good reason.
Your stage of change:
I recently polled Life in Focus (LīF) subscribers to see where they were in their process of change. Not surprisingly about half follow LīF for inspiration and motivation, and another half are actively looking for solutions, tools, and practical advice.
Here’s how to use this post if…
You’re looking for motivation
Read it, let it sink in, consider any immediate insights, briefly ponder how you might apply this to your life.
You’re looking to actively create change in your life
Do what the motivators do, and take it a step further
What: Make a list of the apologetic/undermining/self-sabotaging expressions you want to change. For each expression note one to two recent situations where you typically use them.
Why: In your examples Why did you choose those words? What were you hoping others would think or feel by using an expression?
What You Want: What does using that wording make you look like? How do you actually want to be perceived?
The Plan: Find another way of saying it.
Set a reminder – this is one of the best uses of your smartphone.
Set a goal – The goal can be the number of times in a day you make a correction, or challenging yourself to make the shift in a particularly difficult situation. If you beat your goal treat yourself. Create a great secondary reward (the first one is making the shift). This is something you will do for yourself should you manage to consistently succeed in noting and changing your speech.
What: In sessions, I’ll find myself saying things like, “I think that when you finally start using assertive speech, you’ll see your relationship with others will become much more clear.” I’m using “I think” when in fact I know. The previous statement is not an opinion, it is a fact – When you speak clearly, when you say what you mean and mean what you say, your relationships with others improve vastly.
Why: I choose to use “I think” for two reasons: 1) I was taught as a psychologist to be very cautious with my assertions. Using “I think” frees me from the possible obligation of quoting research every other sentence. 2) I am very careful to consider the feelings and potential state of the people I work with. I don’t want them to feel like my way is the only way of doing something, nor do I want them to feel dominated. “I think” allows me to soften my message. My assumption is that others can’t handle assertive language (which isn’t true).
What I want: I am and want to be seen as competent, knowledgeable, and self assured (in and out of sessions). Using this mitigating language doesn’t have that effect. I can show openness without hedging my claim. I can’t show self-assuredness by not speaking from a place of knowledge.
The Plan: I have resorted to restating my points and openly saying, “Argh, I don’t think, I know… I know [repeat statement].” My clients and patients are aware that I am working on this, and why it’s important to me to model for them the importance and value of weighing what you say. Your speech reflects your values and position.
How about you? What words do you notice yourself saying that irritate you? Why?