Mind Your Words: How to Use Little Words to Make A Big Impact

admin - Wednesday, January 30, 2013

this way that way by Stuart Miles
The same set of facts can appear very differently, depending on how you refer to them.

Here is an experiment (inspired by Tom Hoobyar in August 2012) that you can
try right now…Pick a minor irritation you have, a ‘three’ on a scale of one to ten, one being almost nothing and ten being a major deal.

Now think of it as ‘This problem’. Notice how you experience the problem: where is it located in your minds eye?

Now think of it as ‘That problem’. That moves it a bit away from you, or makes it seem smaller, doesn’t it?

The same thing applies to the plural words ‘These’ and ‘Those’.

This is the major problem.”

“Yes, that has been a major issue, and now it’s one of those we’re solving. These though are the first things we need to focus on.”

Using ‘This’ and ‘These’ enlarges them, and moves them up to ‘centre stage’, doesn’t it?

And, when you use ‘That’ and ‘Those’ they seem a little further away, don’t they? This makes them seem easier to manage because you’re able to get a better perspective when you view things from a distance. 

We have metaphors in our language that support this.  Expressions like, “you need to take a step back”, “you need to see the bigger picture”.  Changing the language you use can achieve this in a quick and efficient way.

It may seem a small point but hugely important when it shifts perspective.

Changing even these little words, when referring to those frictions and misunderstandings that are so common in all of our lives, starts to change the ‘stories’ that we tell ourselves (read more about how ‘Stories’ impact our reality).

Experiment yourself by changing “this problem” to “that issue”, next time you’re discussing something that needs resolving and let me know how it goes.

My other favourite set of words I have fun substituting are ‘But’ and ‘And’.  Can you work out the difference these two make?