The Power of Language:

Maybe We Need to STOP and THINK of the Power of Our Words!

Conversations with friends this week have inspired this reflection on the power of casual expressions that we often use without thinking of the power of these phrases and or words. Specifically, the expressions using the word, just, and the affirmation, “You are right!” have great influence, moreover they seem to be used more frequently during this pandemic.

During my conversation with Kathy she reflected, “I’m so sick and tired of hearing people use the phrases, I’m just or It’s just, as a preamble to describing their behavior.” Kathy went on to say that she is observing people using this phrase to justify or rationalize their behaviour that may be judged as risky or breaking the public health guidelines. Statements such as, “I’m just going to have lunch with friends,” or “I’m just going to see …” or “It’s just a quick exchange…” etc., are becoming the rampant norm as people try to escape judgement from others and possibly convince themselves that their behavior is ok. They want to be reassured that they are okay or right in choosing to act a certain way during these physical distancing times. She is so right. We are all feeling rather insecure given the fear in the news and literal fear of being infected with the unpredictable insidious CoVid (there are no guarantees of how our bodies will react to the virus). In trying to make sense of what we are doing and feel ethically right, we are ‘selling’ our behavior with our incidental phrases. We want to hear, it’s okay and you’re right. Hmmm, maybe we need to take the time to slow down and think? Maybe if we are about to use the phrases, “I’m just or It’s just”, we may need to rethink whether we should? It’s tough, we are all tired, stressed and trying to balance the CoVid risk with mental health and optimistically moving forward with daily living. Sigh…

This brings me to the next phrase: “You’re right!” I was walking with Shejo, my unicorn friend. We had a much needed exchange of magical and mystical energy and thoughts, walking under the brilliant rejuvenating sun and soaking up the healing phytoncides. As we walked and talked, I caught myself saying, “You’re right!” a number of times. One topic that we touched on, was the state of political and cultural affairs. This got me thinking of extreme opinions, (right versus wrong, black versus white, democrats versus liberals) and how we as a society are so polarized and the strong tendency for people to be very tribal. This combined with mindsets rooted in fear, insecurity, scarcity and competition, leaves our society reeling in a frenzy of discernment and imposing judgement, feeding the ego. I turned to Shejo and questioned my use of, “You are right!” and continued with, “Shejo, today, I’ve repeatedly stated “You are right!” agreeing with you and with the desire to embrace and affirm you, but this implies things are right and wrong. Should we not be using effective and ineffective? Or I could react differently?” I continued to share Dr. William Glasser’s point of view that our behavioural choices are not good or bed but effective or ineffective in satisfying our basic needs and how they relate to the pictures of our quality worlds. Shejo, gave a reflective nod. Maybe we need to stop categorizing things by right and wrong or good and bad and be more specific in our responses like, I agree with you, I can see your point of view, provocative, intriguing, I find your reflections wise, wow that reaction was effective or please tell me more? I wonder if in the interest of destressing and simplifying our world we’ve become language minimalists? Maybe we have reduced our vocabulary to such primary levels which intern appeal to our more basic emotions of happy and sad or good and bad?

Hmmm, is there a tendency to cut away sophistication and complexity? Geez, isn’t that what happened with Trump? He repeatedly spoke exceptionally simply and as such appealed to basic egotistical reactions of the masses. I am going to make a more conscious effort at communicating with more thought. I will try to patiently take time to think of communicating with words that offer a richness beyond right or wrong or good and bad. Inch by inch, if we all communicate with complex vocabulary and ask more questions, then maybe we will affirm and mystically grow, as in the magic of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.