How to Communicate in the Positive-Tense

Ok, I’m not sure if positive-tense is a thing, but it should be. Maybe we can make it a thing. Especially now, because every day I hear from more and more people who are aching to make a difference on this planet, who are wanting to make big changes in their communities, their countries, and their worlds. They have big ideas, powerful dreams and goals. It saddens me to hear the self-sabotage continually in these same people’s words, the pervasive negativity in their conversations, and how they are totally oblivious to any of it.

Those big ideas need consummate communication. Words are essential to making those dreams a reality. And they’re vital to our relationships, our loved ones, our careers, to ourselves. Why, then, do so few individuals, from all walks of life and across all economic lines, pay (any!) attention to the words that come out of their mouths? I’ve heard extremely influential, spiritually-awakened folks who can’t seem to stop putting themselves down in ever-imaginative and unpleasant ways. Everybody has at least one person in their life who lives in that negative space, with symptoms including incessant complaining, a running tally of all things they hate, and the ability to find something that irritates them in damn near every little (and big) thing.

We must do better, and we can – a lot easier than you think. We can remove the negativity from our speech, and spread the positivity around. I think it was Oprah I’m quoting, “I’m responsible for the energy I bring to this space.” Excellent reminder in checking in with yourself, and bring a little awareness into the moment.

It’s because I used to live in victim-mode so much that I now experience an almost hyper-awareness when I slip back into that mode now and again (every 5 mins or so, sometimes), and especially when I use particular language that perpetuates it. While all schoolkids are taught English, punctuation, and grammar, I’ve learned of few classes for individuals of any age that focus on our words. Maybe that’s one of the reasons so many of us use horrible, negative language, or why we can’t seem to stop talking so deleteriously about…everything.

Our language, our chosen words, are so incredibly powerful. I remember a particularly acrimonious…discussion…with an ex of mine, and as the drama dwindled, I uttered a blurry, cryptic apology and something about my undying love. I also remember the nasty tone in my voice, and the sarcasm that I only half-heartedly attempted to hide. And then, after seeing the confused and angry look on his face, I shrieked something like, “You should know what I’m trying to say. So what if I didn’t say the right thing – they’re just words, and you should know what I mean.”

No wonder our relationship ended. What a fantastic victim-baby I was, and how like me to put all that responsibility for my words and intentions onto the shoulders of someone else. It took me too many years and many more failed relationships, personal and professional, before I was able to accept responsibility for the failures. Even longer until one of my bosses threw my words in my face before I recognized how terribly, dangerously, awful my own language was. It was a revelation, a hard-earned discovery, and one that will spur momentum for anyone on their journeys. It’s one of the very cool bennies of awareness – once begun, embracing transformations becomes a burning desire to continue the unleashing of possibilities.

The words we choose can express exactly what we want to convey, or not. They contain an energy, a power, and sensations that have an incredible impact on damn near everything we do, say, see, feel, think, create – and more. Besides being a core means of communication, the words we choose can spread waves of love, hope, encouragement, respect, joy, passion, and beauty. Words can also start wars, stir violence, destroy relationships, instill fear, sink entire nations, and a whole lot of other bad stuff.

I prefer the good stuff – hence, talking in the Positive-Tense. If you think about it, and I’m asking you to do exactly that, almost everything we say can be stated in different ways. So why not in positive, reinforcing ways? Why can’t we stop using words that spread negativity, judgements, accusatory arguments, or unwelcome, offensive attitudes? Why can’t we speak from a place of understanding, empathy, and kindness? As my favorite coach told me, speak from that mushy place inside. Come from a place of love.   

Here’s a (very) simple example:

You: “I love orange juice.”

Me: “I hate orange juice. Makes me gag just smelling it.”

Yes, thank you for that image. OR how about we go this way instead:

Me: “For me it’s apple juice. Orange juice not so much.”

Basic example, but you get the idea. Negativity is a bad thing, as we’ve all heard innumerable times and in a myriad of different ways. Catching and changing negative communication, however, is not as hard as you might think.

  1. Awareness is the first step. Step back and out of whatever role you’re in, and into your Discovery persona – an explorer, a witness – to all that is happening, to see and hear the good and not-so-good. Pay attention to your words, your voice, behavior, body language, and even your environment (very interesting how many times our negative energy can be linked to toxic environments or places we really don’t want to be.) Listen for self-sabotaging words and phrases, frustrations, irritability, or anger, accusatory or blaming language, the should of’s, could of’s, would of’s, the complaints, tone of voice and facial expressions. Soon you’ll catch yourself doing something, saying, “Oh wow, I’m doing that thing again…”
  2. Begin the process of evaluation, of understanding, of acceptance and forgiveness. No judgements, no drama. Recognize that at any minute in time, you’re doing the best you can given the tools you have at that moment. Stuff happens. You can jump into the why’s if appropriate and when you’re ready. I work to follow my own advice every day: forgive yourself every five minutes if necessary, let it go, and move on. Not sure who said this first, and I really like it: every day is a new beginning.  
  3. Once you’ve identified the things you’d like to change, there will be ample opportunities for you to make different choices. You can say (out loud or to yourself), Stop. Take a mulligan, and take the do-over. I encourage you to laugh with yourself as much as possible during this process. It can be damn funny, anyway, and laughing is a helluva lot more fun than crying or throwing a hissy fit. Laughing also burns more calories.

Working with a coach, journaling, and other daily routines can help a lot with this process. And some people find support by enrolling their friends and loved ones, although others might be tempted to scream hysterically at the mere notion. Be ok with whatever works for you. There’s many paths to success.

One of the things that continues to help me is that spiffy quote from Mother Teresa, “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”

I’m in. Your turn.

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