When one of my children was little, I heard many words to describe her and most had a negative connotation due to issues she was dealing with. Over time, I began to describe her the same way and realized it was making me view her negatively. I struggled with how to help her with her issues and not allow others to put her down. Now I don’t believe anyone ever did so intentionally, they simply saw her behavior and used words to describe it that came to mind. Finally, I read a book that gave a simple solution which took effort to implement (and I admit I still struggle with) but it made a huge difference in how I personally perceived her.
For example, if I were to say she was a strong willed child, is that a positive or a negative word? Generally I picture a child who refuses to obey and wants everything their way. Yet if I say a determined child, I picture a child who knows what they want and will work to get it. Now isn’t that really the same thing? All I had to do when someone used strong willed to describe her was to come back and say “yes she is a determined child isn’t she?” and I would see a look come across their face. Often their face would soften, a smile would form and they began to find the positives in her behavior. To see this visually, I typed strong willed child and determined child into google and checked out the images that popped up. Overwhelmingly the stong willed child was depicted as pouting with their arms crossed. Yet the determined child was happy and laughing.
Examine the word audacity, it is defined as “boldness or daring, especially with confident or arrogant disregard for personal safety, conventional thought, or other restrictions.” The part I want to focus on is arrogant disregard. When someone has audacity it is never seen as a positive, quite the opposite in fact. Yet if we scroll past the definition and read the synonyms, we get a totally different take as the words “nerve, spunk, grit” are seen positive traits. How can a word imply a disregard for others yet easily be replaced by traits we admire such as spunk and grit? It all comes down to point of view.
So what does this mean for me, my family, my job or my business? I would like to challenge you to sit down and write down all the negative words you use to describe yourself in a column. Once you are done, write down the positive version of that word. For example, persnickety might become detailed or obsessive might become focused. Once you have all those words written down read them out loud and say “I am….” We can be so critical of ourselves and others that we need to retrain our minds to focus on our good attributes. You will be amazed at how different you feel just by reading the list out loud.
Now do the same thing for someone else that you struggle with. Maybe it is a coworker who annoys the tar out of you, or the child whose personality is so different from your own you wonder how they can be yours. Once we change how we perceive ourselves and others, we naturally change how we interact. If you have a strong willed child you are constantly in a battle of wills. Yet a determined child is one you can direct to use that determination in a positive way.
So you made up yet another list, what are you going to do with it? How will changing the words you use effect how you parent or run your business? It won’t if the list gets lost somewhere in the pile of papers you are trying to hide on your desk. Keep them where you can see them every day and it will remind you to mentally change those words when you hear them or are tempted to say them. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it will happen. And I would love to hear how this worked for you.