Leadership thoughts and strategies, plus upcoming events from Deb Elbaum Coaching

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Choosing our words carefully

"Language creates reality. Words have power." (Deepak Chopra)

What reality are your words are creating? A positive, expansive one? Or a limiting, negative one? A teacher of mine once said that the words we speak to ourselves color our "inner wallpaper." After all, we talk to ourselves all the time. How often do we really pay attention to what we're saying?

As a coach, I absolutely believe that words have power and that coaching is an opportunity to slow down and be intentional, and so I'm always listening to the words my clients speak. What I've found after listening to hundreds of clients, is that most of us (myself included) could be more mindful of the words we use, and that a simple re-frame of a word or two can offer a whole new perspective.

Here are two examples. The word that makes me most cringe as a coach is the word "struggle" when it's used in situations like, "I struggle with speaking up" or "I'm struggling to decide what to do." When I hear that word, I pause my client and ask, "Can we re-frame? Is this thought or upcoming conversation really a struggle? Or is it something you are processing, working on, or trying to figure out?"

What I've found is that when we label a situation a "struggle," it becomes one and takes on a heavy, overwhelming quality. But when we label the same situation something else, as in "an idea I'm trying to figure out," it becomes a situation that has more possibility and solution.

The other word I listen closely for in coaching is "but." It's ubiquitous! Here's the trouble with but: when you use it, you are negating the first part of your statement. As in, "I like that idea, but I think we need to focus in this direction." We all know what that comment really means: bad idea!

Instead, I help my clients build their awareness to switch their "buts" to "ands." This practice comes from improv, which is famous for embracing a yes, and approach, rather than a no, but approach. It really works! When we switch from a "but" to an "and," our brain hears what we are saying differently, and allows both ideas to be true.

During the next few weeks, I invite you to pay attention to your words, how they are coloring your inner wallpaper, and how they make you feel when you think or speak them.

Happy September,

What do you see?
(view from a cave)

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