Words are powerful. We all know it. They can be used like a weapon to inflict pain, or like a soothing balm to comfort and uplift another. They can also be used as a creative force to affirm what we can do, have, or be. I’m sure you’ve heard that we should always affirm what we do want, rather than what we don’t want, because our brains don’t register the words no or not. For example, when we say, “I do not want to be fat”, our brains just hear “I want to be fat.” Instead, we want to affirm, “I want to be thin.”
Can you also detect how different it feels energetically to focus on what you desire, instead of what you’re fighting against? I know this to be true, yet sometimes my mind will resist whatever I’m affirming, because I don’t actually believe it. Have you ever had the experience of someone giving you a compliment, but you just don’t feel good hearing it because you don’t agree with the assessment they made of you? I have. So how do we manage the gap between what we really want to be true, and what we actually believe? As I’ve been searching for ways to align the belief I’d like to hold with what I think is true, I’ve been paying close attention to the effect of different words on how I feel in my body. Recently I came across 2 different words that are absolutely magical in aligning myself with what I want and what I believe.
The first came from an interview with Samantha Bennett (founder of The Organized Artist Company) where she was talking about the word “sometimes”. When I add the word “sometimes” to the end of feedback or a judgment I’m receiving –whether it’s positive or negative – my mind seems to melt into full acceptance and ease. For example, “You’re a great speaker” feels uncomfortable because it doesn’t jive with my own opinion of myself. But when I change it to “You’re a great speaker, sometimes” I can relax and totally buy into the fact that sometimes, I really am a great speaker. Similarly, if I hear from someone, “You’re a terrible speaker” and I translate it to “You’re a terrible speaker, sometimes”, I can also relax because I know that some of the time, I really am a terrible speaker. The same holds true for the messages I tell myself. “I’m not doing enough marketing” is beating myself up and feels terrible. “I’m not doing enough marketing, sometimes” transforms this negative judgment into simply information. After all, it’s true; sometimes I’m not doing enough marketing! But so what? Since the inner critic voice inside our heads is often speaking 24/7, just adding this magic word to our inner chatter can have an amazing impact in helping us relax and see ourselves through more compassionate eyes.
The second magic word is “and”. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I’m talking about using this word in a specific context – to replace the word “but”. When you choose to say “and” when you normally would have said “but” there’s an instant softening in your message that promotes harmony and peace. For example, when you have an opinion that differs from another, instead of directly challenging what they’re saying with “but…” followed by your own opinion, why not acknowledge their point of view with a “yes, and…” before you give your own? For example, “I hate that movie theater! They always have long lines.” Consider the response, “Yes, and, they also have the cheapest seats in town.” Instead of fueling a battle of right vs. wrong, “and” opens the door for a dialogue which can include multiple points of view. It embraces the stance that both aspects are worth considering – i.e. would we like to prioritize our budget tonight or the convenience of getting into the movie quickly? Again, the same magic happens with our inner talk as with other people. When I think, “I really want to go to the concert, but I can’t afford it”, it feels one way. When I translate that to “I really want to go to the concert, and I want to keep my commitment to put an extra $50 towards my credit card debt this month,” I affirm I am making a choice without judging that something is wrong or bad. Feels much better!
What I really love about replacing “but” with “and” it allows us to disagree with others with respect and harmony. This is really important to me, because I value both authenticity and peaceful interactions. So I’m often unsure whether I should speak my truth if I suspect it could lead to conflict. Consider the effect of these phrases (suggested by coach Martha Lasley) on an interaction with someone with whom you disagree:
“Yes, the part that resonates with me is…”
“I can hear how much you really care about this topic.”
“I appreciate your insight, and here’s another perspective to explore…”
“What I love about what you just said is…”
“I really appreciate you sharing your experience with me.”
“Now I understand where you’re coming from.”
“I’m really inspired by your passion.”
Both adding “sometimes” into my vocabulary and replacing “but” with “and” has already made a huge difference in how I feel when hearing a judgment or opinion – whether from another person or that voice in my own head. These are truly 2 magical words, and I invite you to try it yourself. How does it change things for you? I’d love to hear your experience and thoughts in the comments below!