Tag: words matter

Better Word Choice – Better Outcome

Understanding truth changes lives

Many years ago, I read Remember the Ice and Other Paradigm Shifts by Bob Nicoll. It was life-changing, or I could say it was communication-changing. : ) All these years later, when I engage in a conversation, I can hear Bob say, “Remember the ice!”

I attended an event that Bob spoke at and then I bought the book. I learned later that he was a friend of one of my clients. What a lovely coincidence or it would be if I believed in coincidences. We had a number of opportunities to visit together. Later, I was also privileged to be on stage with Bob, teaching parents together.

Bob had a passion for linguistics and empowering language choices. He focused his energies on studying the power of word choice: the Psychophysiology of Words, as he said. Now, that is a big word. : )

Bob had been a counseling psychologist, a business owner/consultant, a motivational speaker, a sales trainer, a restaurant owner, a financial planner, and a top sales manager. He knew the importance of all kinds of relationships and the power that words had in those relationships. He had a passion for helping people shift their paradigms with respect to empowering word choices. And that is how the book Remember the Ice came to be. So, what was in his book that was life-changing for me?

Let me share one story from the book and you will see.

In Bob’s words – Imagine being able to create a simple message. You know in your mind what you would like to convey. You get ready to share it with one of your precious children. You open your mouth, speak your mind, and then realize you have attracted the opposite of what you want.
Huh??? What’s that you say?

All you said to your precious 6-year-old was, “Don’t touch that vase.” Seconds later, you hear the sound of broken glass and your favorite, imported, crystal vase is on the floor in a myriad of pieces.

So why would he touch it after you specifically said, “DON’T touch that vase?” Before I share the answer, let me share a quick story.

It all began on July 23, 1991 — at 10:07 AM PDT

In a convenience store on Northern Avenue in Phoenix, AZ, the manager had placed a couple of signs above his cash registers. His intention was to encourage his patrons to buy more ice during the hot desert summer.

I lived across the street from this store and came to know him. Rick was working one day as I made a purchase. This time I paused and asked him how his ice sales were going because I am intrigued by word choice and the resulting behavioral outcomes. You see, the signs above the cash registers read: DON’T FORGET THE ICE

I asked Rick how sales were going. His reply was less than favorable. I paused and asked if I could make a suggestion. I mean, after all, this was Phoenix—in the desert—in the middle of the summer. (110+ degrees in the shade)

“Rick, do you have a couple of pieces of paper and a magic marker?” I inquired. He gave me the items and I quickly made two new signs for him. REMEMBER THE ICE

I left with a knowing smile and purposely stayed away for about a month. When I went back to the store, I spoke with Rick about his recent ice sales. “What did you do? My sales are up over 500% in the last 30 days!!”

I smiled and asked him a simple question: “If I say to you: Don’t think of the color blue. What color are you thinking of?” “Why blue of course” he replied. “Of course.” Now if I say, “don’t forget the ice”, what will you forget? “Hmmm… the ice.” “Right.”

Wasn’t that story awesome and haven’t you experienced something like this? I have with my own children, my husband, and friends. Words matter. What we say and how we say it impacts not only us but those we are talking to. Don’t is a word I rarely use because I hear Bob in my head.

Do you see how the innocent and commonly used message of “DON’T results in the opposite of what we want? Our mind has no conception of the word NOT (Bob explains more about that in his book), and we proceed to DO what follows the word Not (Do not or Don’t). So, the end result is, 6-year-old Tommy is compelled to touch the vase BECAUSE you told him to.

Words mean things. Word choice has behavioral consequences.

If mom had said, “leave the vase alone”, or “no touching the vase,” the end result is, you would have a beautiful piece of crystal to showcase your flowers. And this is the crux of the book.

How can you think differently about the words you use? How can you have better outcomes? How can words assist you in getting your kids, spouse, and others to respond positively more often?

I recommend Remember the Ice and Other Paradigm Shifts.

It is available on Amazon. You will be a better parent for having read it. Bob taught people that, “There is Power in the Clarity of your Articulation.” Another way of saying that is: “Word Choice has behavioral consequences.”

Here is how I say it –
Words mean things. Learn how to use them well.

Want more direction on having meaningful conversations with your kids:

Words Carry Enormous Weight

Who Wears Shoes TOO Big?

My daughter Kate wore shoes that were a size too big for many years after she became a teenager. I didn’t realize she was doing that. In fact, she was married before I found out. Her husband found out first and he called her on it.

“Why do you buy shoes that are a size too big”, he asked her. She replied that she had big feet and needed a bigger size. Well, eventually the whole story came out.

She doesn’t really have big feet. She wears the same size that I do, a respectable eight. But one day when she was a child her dad said something that impacted her for years.

We were hiking and she had climbed a tree. Kate was about eight or nine. She lifted her foot and set it on a branch. Her dad made what seemed like an innocent comment, “Hey Big Foot”. The rest is history. She computed that to mean that she had big feet.

I Believed I WAS Fat!

When I was about eight my grandma said something that impacted me for all of my childhood and many years into my adulthood. She owned a Sweet Shop in Afton, Wyoming. I loved going there and she would let me work the candy counter and bag popcorn.

We grandkids could have lots of nickel and penny candy but we were never allowed to have chocolate bars because they cost a quarter. One day, before I had all the unspoken rules down, I asked her if I could have a Twix bar. I had never had one and they seemed so wonderful up on the highest shelf. She said, “No, do you want to get fat.” Another pretty innocent comment but here is what I heard and believed for many years…”You are fat”.

The TRUTH is I Have Beautiful Eyes!!!

Not only did I begin believing I was fat, I believed that I must be really unattractive because I was fat. But when I was seventeen I was at the home of a woman who was doing some alterations on a dress for me. Her husband told me that I had the most beautiful brown eyes. I know that it seems incredible because I didn’t even know the man, but I believed him. I had beautiful eyes! Even now at 65, when I look into the mirror I think to myself, “Man, you have beautiful eyes.”

Pigs or Pigsty…That Was the Question

When I was a middle-aged mom, with six of my seven children, I came down the stairs one day to the sight of a totally cluttered living room. As I gazed out over the room and the many children playing there I said, “This room is a pigsty”. Many years later, when my oldest child was in her late thirties we were having a conversation about moms and how they should talk to their children. I made the comment that although I wasn’t perfect I at least never called anyone names. My daughter looked at me in astonishment and said, “yes you did”. I, equally astonished, asked her to tell me when. She replied, “Well, one day you came down the stairs and you said, “You are such pigs!”

Wow, talk about two different views of the same experience. We talked about it. What we both realized is that children hear what they hear and we just need to be careful what we say, because children don’t always hear the words…they hear the feeling.

It is not just children that hear a comment and then believe it. It isn’t just the young that are affected by what is said to them. Let me illustrate. I will have to tell on myself a bit, but for the sake of emphasis, I will do it. : )

The SATISFYING Laugh, Ahhh!

My youngest daughter is married to a really wonderful man. We like him a lot and frankly, he thinks we are great too. Recently I was talking to my daughter on the phone and she said something that made me laugh.

I have to stop here and say something about my laugh. It is distinctive and it can be loud. I have a witch laugh that is legendary and on Halloween I am called upon to do it a lot. Frequently, during the year, a grandchild will say, “Grandma do the witch laugh.” Now all of my laughter isn’t witchy but that just lets you know it is distinctive and sometimes loud. I have always been a bit self conscious about it.

Back to the phone conversation. I laughed and I heard my son in law say something in the back ground. “Mom, Brady said he likes your laugh.” That was such an odd comment that I asked her “Why?” She asked him and then came back on line and said, “He said it is satisfying.” Isn’t that the most amazing thing to have someone say?

Here is what has happened from that chance comment. Every time I laugh I think to myself, “That is so satisfying.” I am no longer self conscious, but pleased.

Our words can be very powerful for both good and bad. We need to be thoughtful in how we talk to our children and others, about their strengths and their weaknesses, because sometimes what we say can impact them for decades.

In all of our teaching and interactions with our children, we should be kind.

In all of our teaching and interactions with our children, we should be kind. Kind words not only lift our spirits in the moment they are given, but they can linger with us over the years. The same is true of the off hand or unkind chance remark. We would do well to ask ourselves questions such as these:  “Is what I am about to say going to uplift the hearer? Will it inspire, motivate, and create forward momentum for them? Will it dissolve fear and create safety and trust? Will I create a positive or negative ripple effect by speaking out these words?” Harness the Power of Words By Barbara White

What has been said that has lifted you, buoyed you up, helped you learn or made you feel good about yourself? I, for one, would like to know. I encourage you to leave a comment. : ) 

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