Steve, a realtor in Manhattan, hadn’t sold one property in his portfolio for more than seven weeks. “It’s impossible! I can’t get anyone to complete”, he said, in a deflated voice. This was the third time Steve had met me for a coaching session. He looked downbeat. I could feel his worry.
‘How about saying this instead?,’ I suggested. “I’ve been struggling to get anyone to complete”.
“That’s what I just said,” Steve replied. He now looked confused as well as down.
“Not quite!” I said.
I explained to Steve we can block ourselves with the words we use to describe our situation and we’re usually unaware we’re doing it. ‘I should do this’, ‘I could never do that’, ‘It’s impossible for me’, are stock phrases we need to ditch. Instead of describing reality these words and phrases cut us off from what we really can make happen. Such words often feed our anxiety too as they can make us feel powerless in the face of reality.
Replacing these words and phrases with more hope and honesty keeps the door of possibility and change open and we often start to relax.
Saying something is difficult rather than impossible. Telling ourselves we’re ‘choosing’ to do a hard task rather than it ‘has’ to be done are helpful ways of describing the challenges we face as well as taking responsibility for our choices.
Steve cautiously repeated what I’d just said, “I’ve been struggling to get anyone to complete.”
When we met again two weeks later, Steve said he hadn’t been feeling so down. He’d been writing down phrases and words that were blocking him and told me how he’d been swapping them for more hopeful words such ‘this is hard’ rather than, ‘this is impossible’.
I asked him how work was going. “I’m about to complete on a sale!”, he said the note of triumph in his voice ringing out. ‘Really!” I said. ‘I’m so happy for you!’.
Steve said his low mood and feelings of hopelessness had probably been picked up by his clients so it was no wonder people weren’t buying from him.
‘I definitely feel a change,’ he said, ’since I’ve started tuning into my language,’ a wide grin breaking out on his face.
About the Author:
David Waters is a coach, psychotherapist and team development expert in New York City. He also writes stories on emotional intelligence for men in the New York Observer.