October 19

The Language We Use

October 19, 2016

Personal Growth, Workplace

Marcus called to talk to me about a conversation he needed to have with his boss. Marcus was a people pleaser who was afraid to disappoint anyone, so he tended to accept every job that was given to him, even when he was already overwhelmed. He had reached the snapping point, and he just couldn’t imagine how he would tell his boss that he needed relief while not appearing to be incompetent or irresponsible. He was paralyzed with fear.

I made some concrete suggestions that I have implemented with many people, mostly involving Marcus showing the boss on paper all the jobs he was juggling, along with estimates of the time required for each. It would then become obvious that one man could not do all that work.

Marcus responded to me using phrases that included the following:
“This is going to be a real hurdle for me.” (The word “hurdle” used three times)
“A big obstacle”
“I’ll be stepping out on a limb here.”
“facing real demons for me”
“terrifying”

Our feelings generate the words we use, illustrated nicely by Marcus using so many words expressing fear. But our words also influence how we feel. If we consistently use fearful words, for example, we tend to become more afraid. So a feedback loop is created between feelings and words.

We need to be aware of the words we choose to describe situations and plans, so that we don’t create or worsen fear unnecessarily.

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