Words Matter

I have no poker-face.  In high school, my junior year English teacher said, in the middle of class one day, “I can always tell how good a job I am doing with explaining something by looking at just one of your faces.  If I am not making sense, one of you always shows me that on your face.”

At the time, we begged her to tell us who that person was.

“I can’t,” she insisted.  “Or this person will quit being my tell.  He or she will mask what they are thinking.  And I can’t have that.  I need the feedback.”

At the end of the year, she pulled me aside.

“You were my tell.”

Not only do I have no poker-face, I do not have a poker-mouth.  It is impossible for me to lie.  It is a lovely strength, and it is a great challenge because there are times when a lie, a gentle omission, a redirection is what is needed in a situation.  But if you ask me a question, I can’t dilly-dally around it.  I gotta tell you what I am thinking, just as it is.  And, sometimes, that is so not what a situation needs.

Hence, I found myself recently saying “I had” to do something when a friend asked me a question about something that was upcoming.  Then, I caught myself and started over, “Sorry about that.  I get to do that.  I need to watch my words.”

Words matter.

Yes, it absolutely matters that we know what we think, what is true in our heart, what we believe, what we want, what we don’t want.  I believe wholeheartedly in self-awareness and the difference that self-awareness can profoundly make in your life.

But I also believe in the power of language.  What we say matters- not just to the people who hear what we say but to ourselves, too.

When I was saying “I had to” do something, what I was telling myself was that I was not going to like this thing, that I felt trapped, caught, forced.  I was being done to and, thus, disempowering myself.  As I changed my language to “I get to”, I was taking ownership of the situation, realizing that while I have a responsibility to do this thing, while it perhaps is a choice that I wouldn’t have independently made, it is an experience that I can influence with my attitude and approach, that I can absolutely enjoy it, and I begin doing that by choosing my words.

I don’t ever want to lose my honesty.  I don’t ever want to be less transparent, but I also don’t want to sulk or feel done to or make myself a victim.  So I am deliberately watching my words, maintaining my power and possibility even in my truth.

Do you have a tell?   How have you seen word choice make a difference in your life?

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3 responses to “Words Matter”

  1. Lisa Trudler

    Words are so powerful – whether we say them to ourselves or to others. I practice replacing “have to” with “want to” or “choose to”, eliminating “try” and instead focusing on “doing” – or being honest and saying “no”, and I’ve learned that the word “but” erases everything that preceded it, and that in nearly every case “but” can be replaced with “and”.
    Thanks for an empowering website and blog!

  2. Mid-Week Balance: 18 July 2012

    […] Rosie Molinary uses an example from her own life to remind us that the way that we experience our lives is largely shaped by the language we use to narrate our own stories. […]

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