Have you considered that your words, or someone else’s words for that matter, set you up for success or failure before you even start something? How often does what you say – yes I can – no I can’t – seem to become a self-fulfilling prophecy?
I did a training course a couple of months ago. It was based on an interesting topic and had the potential to give me some great new tools to try out when communicating with other people.
The trainer seemed to be friendly, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. His sitting on a desk, swinging his legs like a 5 year old, did annoy me I admit. But the HUGE issue was his language and the words he was using. Those words built preconceptions in our minds. The trainer kept repeating, over and over and over …
“It’s so HARD to make changes in the way you behave.”
“It’s so DIFFICULT for you to TRY to think in a new way.”
“Your course is so RESTRICTED as we had to pack two days of content into one day.”
“You are LOSING so from the course as we don’t have the time to do all the exercises and you haven’t had usual practice time to get to grips with these new ideas and embed them in the way you think.”
If he said those things once, he said them a hundred times throughout the day. What effect do you think he had on the 30 students in that room?
His language told our minds to assume absolute FAILURE, before it even happened. His words made the training a waste of time. And installed that efficiently in each persons head.
So what is it that he did wrong? Well in his language were a host of ‘presuppositions’ – linguistic assumptions in other words. These assumptions result in us thinking in a certain way. Often the reason we find ourselves thinking that way isn’t obvious and the influence is entirely unconsciously.
Everything we say includes some of these assumptions. For example if you say “I can’t ….” then you’re actually deleting the possibility “you can” in your mind. As a result you leave yourself with fewer choices and ultimately less possibility of success.
Paying attention to the presuppositions you use, or someone else uses, will help you explore whether you (or the other person) are creating unconscious limitations, negative bias and increasing the risk of failure. It may be in something you say to yourself in your mind or something someone says to you. It may be a statement that affects your performance or something you say that affects someone else.
People assume certain things in the words they use to represent their experience, what’s happened to them in the past and what they then (unconsciously) assume will happen in the future.
Compare the impact of these two sentences:
VERSION #1 Trying to learn how to change the questions you ask a customer is a long and painful process that you’ll never master without extensive practice.
So let’s pull out some of the presuppositions in there:
- Try – presupposes (assumes) that you probably won’t succeed in learning it.
- Long – it will takes lots of time.
- Painful – it will be a difficult and probably unpleasant experience.
- Never – it’s not going to happen – ever.
- Extensive practice – presupposes huge amounts of practice are required for you to achieve success.
VERSION #2 You will be surprised how quickly and easily you ask your customer the key questions that result in greater success.
So let’s pull out some of the presuppositions that are in there this time:
- Be surprised – presupposes that sometimes things happen that you don’t always anticipate.
- Quickly and easily – it will be a short and totally painless process.
- Key questions – you’ll be able to ask the right questions to achieve your goal.
- Greater success – presupposes that you’re already successful and that you can do even better.
So which of those sentences would you want to hear from a trainer? Which of them would create the most useful picture in a students mind for them to SUCCESSFULLY start using what they’ve learned at their training and utilize these new tools?
Remember. Your words change your mind. Your mind changes your body. Your body changes your behavior. Your behavior changes your chances of success.
- Why You Should Listen to Your Unconscious Mind – and What It Can Tell You (forbes.com)
- Bring yourself good luck! (wellbeingandme.com)
- Self Fulfilling Prophecy, how we defend limiting and unhelpful beliefs! (gwizlearning.wordpress.com)
- The 2 Body Language Mistakes You’re Making Every Day (forbes.com)