Carol and I are very fortunate. Through our speaking, training, and coaching, we get to meet many wonderful people from a variety of professions. In our interactions, we encounter behavioural patterns that help us reflect on our own lives, and to learn more effective communication strategies. Here’s an example of a language pattern that has a powerful effect on life. I call it the “always never-ever” syndrome.
When working with a team of agricultural consultants, this comment was made, “It’s always a struggle to get my clients to write down their goals.” That was her reality.
In a communication workshop with another organization, this was said about the executive team, “They never share their vision with us.” That was his reality.
And in seminars and coaching with couples, we often hear things like:
“Every time he looks at me that way, I feel belittled.”
“Everybody else knows what she’s doing, but she never tells me.”
“He always tells me what to do and never asks for my input.”
“All women are like that.”
These people’s words formed their reality.
Stop for a moment and reflect on the conversations you’ve had recently. I’m curious to know if you occasionally become inflicted with the “always never-ever” syndrome in your workplace, or at home. If so, how does if affect your reality?
“Universal Quantifiers” is the label for words such as: always, never, all, every, everybody, and every time. They are linguistic generalizations that restrict or omit possibilities to see, hear, and feel a different experience. They create boundary conditions around segments of life, based upon past experiences, and they limit our ability to think outside the barn now and in the future. In neuro-linguistic programming terms, they “impoverish our model of the world.”
An impoverished model of the world? Yuck! Doesn’t sound very appealing, does it?
Limiting ourselves through use of these universal quantifiers tends to create feelings of frustration, discontent, anger, resentment, unworthiness, fear, and many other less-than-desirable emotions. These emotions are like a form of cancer – they consume us from the inside. And I believe that harbouring these negative feelings may eventually turn into physical cancer or some other life-limiting disease.
Externally, these limiting words and emotions tend to destroy relationships. And then we hear comments such as:
“That always happens to me.”
“There may be lots of fish in the ocean, but I’ll never catch one that’s right for me.”
“Nobody understands me.”
And the impoverished cycle continues, like the song we used to sing at Boy Scout camps, “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, sittin’ in the garden eatin’ worms – yum, yum!”
If you’re up for a challenge, use the following steps to gently rattle your beans upstairs, immunize yourself from the “always never-ever” syndrome, and you’ll be amazed at the abundance of possibilities you’ll have for greater feelings of love, happiness, health, and success.
I found these steps to be challenging at first. Like me, you’ll find they become easier with practice. Prior to beginning, please ingrain in your brain the fact that, at some level of consciousness, you get to choose every thought, word, and action. The effect (what happens), is a result of your choices. Here are the steps.
- Focus on becoming consciously aware of your thoughts and words. Most people’s thoughts and words happen almost instantaneously. Slow this process down so the thought happens, a conscious choice is made, and then the effective words are said – rather than the reactive ones. You can do it!
- When one of the “always never-ever” syndrome words enters your mind, stop and question yourself with this: “Is that statement always true?”
- Think deeply and carefully about the situation. If you can imagine, or remember a time when that “always never-ever” statement was not true, or may not be true in the future, that means there are other possibilities for you now, likely many of them.
- Consciously replace the word. Here are samples:
Always – often
Never – rarely
Every time – frequently
Everybody – a lot of people
All – many
- Notice the results of reframing your statement. By changing your mental focus from a limiting past perspective, you’ll experience limitless current and future possibilities for yourself. Impoverished becomes enriched.
One of the benefits of practicing these steps is that it takes a moment of mental time. This time-lag tends to remove the emotional charge from the situation so more beneficial choices can be made, and more desirable effects are created.
Please hear me – you don’t need to do these steps. I’m sure your life is going just fine. And yet, imagine, just imagine the greater feelings of contentment, joy, and happiness you might be missing – more enjoyable feelings that may be possible with this slight modification to your thought process.
As you practice this within your own life, you’ll find opportunities to gently and respectfully question others – to help them see beyond their impoverished boundaries. That’s what I’m jazzed about – helping others find ways to create greater love, happiness, and success.
The “always never-ever” syndrome? Nah, I’ve immunized myself.
Life is full of possibilities, potentialities, and alternatives.
I haven’t experienced nearly enough of them yet.
What about you?