Your Words Change You

January 16, 2018 - 4 minutes read

The photo is of my pogo stick and helmet.  More on that later.

As the author of five books (Three books in the People Tools series and two books for children – Benji and the 24 Pound Banana Squash, available now, and Benji and the Giant Kite, available this fall) I take words seriously and believe that we all should. Using the right word communicates your thoughts accurately to others and, more importantly, to yourself.

One of my pet word gripes is when someone asks me, “Are you sure?”

I know that in many societies, including our own, it may be considered “polite” to give a false answer first.  This is why we might first say “yes,” or “no,” just to be polite.  Maybe the offer was made just to be polite in the first place.

I prefer to take others at their word, so I always give a real answer– often a simple “yes,” “no,” or “I have to think about it.”  But, sometimes, no matter what I say, the response is, “Are you sure?”

My reply to this question is always the same.  “Yes, I’m sure.  I may not be correct, but I am sure.”

I try not to confuse my opinion with being right.

A different phrase I often hear is, “Sorry, I’m just stupid about that.”

It’s easy to mistake a lack of information for a lack of intelligence.  The words, “I’m stupid,” or “You’re stupid,” usually mean that we don’t have information, and not that we don’t think well.  I believe it’s important to be clear on this, especially with your children.

Two close friends of mine, Barbara and Allison, were afraid to apply to graduate school.  Each, separately, said to me, “They require statistics, and I’m not good with numbers.”

Both enrolled in a statistics course before applying to a graduate program.  Barbara hired a tutor and ended up first in her statistics class.  Allison learned statistics well enough to earn both a Masters and a PhD degree in psychology.  Both Barbara and Allison turned out to be rather good at numbers.  They were merely uneducated about statistics.  We should never confuse ability or intelligence with lack of education or information.

A coworker, Karen, recently said to me, “I blame myself.”  I felt sad for her.  She wasn’t talking about a huge mistake, and blaming herself only added insult to her own injury.

“Perhaps you could say that you take responsibility rather than that you blame yourself.  Making a mistake does not mean that you’re a bad person.”

She understood, and smiled.  “I take responsibility.”

One more biggie in my basket of word gripes is, “You made me feel. . . “

Really?  Am I that all-powerful?  I “made you” feel wonderful, or hurt, or interested?

I respectfully decline to accept that responsibility.  We don’t “make” each other feel anything.  When I receive either a compliment or insult I do not have to automatically feel pleased or angry.  I can feel surprised, or curious, or compassionate.  None of us is a rag doll automatically reacting without choice.  Each of us is the master of his or her own destiny.

About my pogo stick.  It has been delivered (see the photo, and also last week’s blog).  Tomorrow I intend to open the box and start bouncing.

Life has its ups and downs.  And postponements.

Alan

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