April 12, 2013 by
Categories: Relationships, Therapy

I come from a branch of therapy that believes in the power of words. Even subtle differences between words can make a large impact. One of the examples that is frequently used is the difference between these two questions: 1. Can you tell me of a time when the two of you were getting along? 2. Will you tell me of a time when the two of you were getting along? From the basic structure of the sentences, there is only one word different, but the implications of this difference is huge. One leaves doubt that it ever happened, the other assumes that it did.

Image by ilco

Image by ilco

That doubt says a lot. In the case of the questions about the relationship, the doubt suggests that maybe there never was a time that each were getting along. In my experience this is rarely the case. It’s just that when we are focused on a problem, all we can think of is the problem. It reminds me of that adage, if our only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.¬†When we assume that the problem hasn’t always been present, it leaves room for potential growth. If it hasn’t always been present, there’s no need to think that it will always be around in the future.

This assumption works in other aspects too. Think of the implications when asking, “It’s 8:00, would you like to read Green Eggs and Ham or The Cat in the Hat before bed?” The overall implication is that it’s bedtime, but the child feels like they have a choice in the matter (which they do). I’ve found this to increase compliance with children.

I think taking a step back and examining our self-talk is also important. We can think about the implications we are sending ourselves and see if they are self-defeating. How many times to we, without thinking, send ourselves a self-defeating message? How many times do we explain away a compliment by saying, “It was nothing” or pointing out the flaws and reasons why it wasn’t that great?

While it may seem small, these words take their toll over time. I think we already get enough messages that we aren’t good enough. We don’t need to be another voice.

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3 Thoughts About Word

  • April 20, 2013 at 8:58 am Reply

    Thank you, Trent, for your comment on my blog. I appreciate your message.
    I really enjoyed this post about words. For me, self-talk is destructive or beneficial, depending upon how we use it. Yes, words are very powerful. I’ll be following your blog.

    God bless.

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