We are so accustomed to using Every, Never, Always in our communication that we forget the implications that these have on our thoughts and beliefs.
Consider the following lines –
I always get up late.
I never finish my work on time.
Every man is arrogant.
Every woman is hyper-sensitive.
I am always making mistakes.
I never feel good.
You are always late.
You are never on time.
You always start the fight.
Now consider saying the following.
I usually get up late.
I wasn’t able to finish my work yesterday.
That man is arrogant.
That woman is hyper-sensitive.
I sometimes make mistakes.
I am not feeling good ‘Now’.
You are late today.
You weren’t on time yesterday.
You started the fight a week back.
Isn’t being specific a whole lot better than using absolutes?
We need to be specific in our communication with ourselves and with others. Otherwise communication can be a potential cause for feuds!
How to be specific while communicating to yourself?
If you tell yourself time and again – “I’m never on time”, then you will never be on time. We underestimate the power and hold of beliefs. If you say – “I’m always late”, you will ‘always’ be late as you enforce helplessness feeling.
If you use specifics then you do not get caught in a generalization rut and give your brain a signal that you are not ‘always’ late, and have control over your behavior. This in turn takes you out of your ‘learned helplessness’.
How to be specific in your communication with others?
Lets take a domestic scene –
Husband is fixing the TV holder on the wall. He fixed the wrong side of the holder by mistake and the wife yells – Why do you always do this?
Husband- What do I do?
Wife – you always do these things. You never fix things properly.
Then the husband yells – but this is the first time I’m fixing a holder of a TV!
Wife – see you don’t understand at all…
And she stomps out of the room. The husband throws the wrench on the floor in anger!
And the rest is history!
Actually the wife is saying that he never listens to her. She had earlier asked him to call someone to fix the TV holder but he didn’t listen And now since he fixed it wrong she gets a chance to vent out. On the other hand, the husband is angry with himself for fixing the wrong side of the holder and is cursing that he has to redo it. In his frustration he is not able to understand why his wife is upset.
What kind of communication would have helped?
If the Wife had been more specific about her complaint and said “So sorry that you have extra work now. You know it would have helped if we got someone to fix that holder. But it’s okay”, her husband may have listened and the fight may not have taken place.
If the husband had calmly said – I do not exactly understand what you mean. I can see you are upset but I don’t know why and please explain”, the wife wouldn’t have stomped out.
Hugh Prather in Notes to myself says – “if you tell me the way to see it rather than the way it is , then this helps me to more fully discover the way I see it.”
Language is very powerful no doubt.