Reality Check: More Choice Language

The language we use can both reflect and shape our attitudes. While “choice language” usually refers to something a little spicier, in this column, choice language refers to words and phrases that reflect our choices and our areas of control.

Last column, I mentioned two commonly used phrases that imply that we have little or no choice. Those phrases were: “That’s just the way I am,” and “If only…” Here are a few more for you to consider:

  • “They’ll never go for …” This phrase presumes a negative response and it’s often used to justify why there is no point in taking an action. The implication is that we know how “they” are going to respond, even before we talk to them, so it’s not worth wasting our brilliant ideas by proposing them. If you often hear or use this phrase, ask, “How do I know this to be true?” Am I responding in this way because of a deep discouragement based on real past experience? Or might it be reflecting a “Why bother?” attitude or maybe even a bit of laziness on my part?
  • “I can’t.” You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again. Saying and believing that you can’t do something will probably lead to not doing it. When “I can’t” creeps into your thoughts or your speech, take a moment and consider: Is it that you can’t, really? Or is it that it’s too much effort/ money/ time/ commitment? Or is it simply that you don’t want to?
  • “He/she/they make me so…” Whether it’s mad, sad, or glad, suggesting that someone “makes” you anything suggests that your emotions are under the control of someone else. Is that really how you want it to be? Or would you rather recognize that while others may influence how you feel, the ultimate choice is within your control?
  •  “I have to…” Really? Or is it “I choose to?” When you say (or think), “I have to go to bed,” “I have to go to work,” “I have to go to my kid’s game,” you imply that someone or thing outside of you is forcing you to take an action. Yes, if you don’t go to bed, to work, or to the game, there will be a negative consequence. You’re making a choice to avoid that negative consequence. But…it is a choice. There now, don’t you feel freer already?

If you recognize that you often use “no-choice” phrases, you could take that as a signal to examine what in your life is truly under your control, and what is out of your control. You do have a choice!

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