The problem is…starting a sentence like that

Two mates sitting opposite me.

In the space of a few minutes they have both started their conversational turn with “words words…the problem is…other words” several times. For me it does two things, one is that it puts it in a constrained negative mindset, secondly it tends to limit the possibility of other causes, sources and impacts. Often it may be the biggest factor, so it makes it hard to argue against, but that factor may still only be 5%-20%.

Words are powerful. They carry subtle meanings. One word may be a synonym in a Thesaurus, where as a writer will agonise over a word choice. It can affect the rhythm of the writing and the interpretation. I think I must frustrate friends at times, as a deliberate over phrasing and word choice to get a point of view across, typically adding loads of qualifiers. I try to prioritise being clear over getting as many points across as possible.

Reflecting on the “Problem is” statement, it got me thinking of two other common exchanges I think we would do well to re-frame.

How was your day?

The standard question to a significant other at the end of the day, keen to demonstrate their interest in their partner’s life. It is all to typically followed by a venting of frustrations and issues faced. A quick stress release, which gives a temporary reward to the individual while focusing on the negative, somewhat transferring the stress felt to the relationship.

Our brains scan for the negative or more specifically, the threats we face. We consequently retain those and find them easier to recall. Like social media misrepresents the reality of ones life, or at least the proportionality, so to does this question.

My preferred question is, what good happened today? – This question forces a scan for the positive, it may be followed up with venting at times that is healthy and needed, my concern is that it is the default. The starting point.

How are things? – Busy

“When I get busy, I get stupid.” – Austin Kleon

I think if I asked this question to 10 people at work, 9 would say busy and 1 would be too busy to answer. Busy does not equal productive, in fact it is often the force preventing us from being effectively productive. My challenge is to to take BUSY out of the vocabulary.

Instead use: –

  • productive
  • focused
  • clear on my priorities
  • engaged
  • active
  • on the go
  • hustling
  • industrious

If you catch yourself saying busy, cheat and finish the sentence with…busy….being awesome. I personally listen to Lazy: A Manifesto every few months to help fight this unhealthy obsession with being busy.

My challenge to you is to find phrases intended to be healthy and considerate that no longer achieve that goal. Then substitute or eradicate them.

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