Powerful Words create such strong emotional reactions that you end up reacting to the words rather than the actual situation, which affects your ability to choose. Words like “phony,” “acting,” “can’t,” “should,” “stupid,” and “but,” are all examples of powerful words. The word “but” takes away the meaning of the phrase that goes before it. “I tried so hard to be good about my drinking, but….” “I’d like to stop drinking, but…” One of the more toxic patterns is “yes but…” Replace the word “but” with the word “and.” Notice the kinds of words you use to describe difficult situations. When you say “I can’t drink” it produces a feeling of being deprived, of your freedom being impinged upon.
Do you notice different words having power, depending on whether they were coming from you or from someone else? Take the time to notice the kinds of words that come from your inner “Commentator,” that voice in your head. Feel what it is like for you to tune in to the messages that are usually going on subliminally, and make them conscious. Notice the kinds of words you are using to describe yourself and others. Listen to the words used in describing the situation. Do you notice flashlight judgmental statements or grace-filled lantern statements that shine with respect and valuing at the entire scene, including you. Keep coming back to this filter as you grow, to deepen your appreciation of the power of words.
There is a profound (subtle) difference between saying “I should quit drinking and using drugs” and “I choose to make my life more manageable by embracing a sober lifestyle.” Over the years of coaching recovering clients, those who allowed themselves to see their identity as “becoming” in their sobriety were the ones who gained quality sobriety and recovery. Those who held to the belief that “I have to quit drinking” usually had to battle a lifetime of resentment and feeling deprived.
A significant dimension in intimate communication is the tone that the words create during sharing. When there is an overall tone of valuing and respect, and the words convey that attitude, and the nonverbal channels congruently express the same valuing and respect, you have maximized your healthy power. Shining your lantern with a gentle, nonjudgmental light in all directions, allows healthy, intimate communication to come most naturally. This impact is true whether talking to yourself or others. When I shine my lantern in coaching sessions the first thing we usually see is that the client has been working with a judgmental flashlight.
When you share honestly, with respect and valuing, the chances of a healthy outcome are much greater. Many people use judgmental words without even realizing or intending their impact on the communication. Some have the attitude that they need to “tell it like it is!" If a relationship is important to you, it deserves the gift of thought, particularly when sharing difficult things with your family and friends. Notice the impact your words have on those you care about – including you.