This is the fourth post in the Take Back Your Power series of posts.
As we examined in Part I, language is an important element of our personal power. When you catch yourself speaking with the out-of-power words we looked at earlier, don’t beat yourself up. Saying “I’ll try” instead of “I will” is just a habit and habits can be changed with focus (see below). However, there are two legitimate reasons that we often choose out-of-power vocabulary. The InPower trick is to learn to use InPower language to deal with these situations. Most of the time, our language turns out to be an indicator of deeper things.
Sometimes we’re truly not sure of ourselves and experience doubt and even fear in certain situations. In these situations, out-of-power vocabulary is actually our attempt to be honest with ourselves, which is a good thing. When we make an effort to shift our language, if we’re paying attention, more powerful words can actually provoke these feelings of uncertainty and make us uncomfortable. This discomfort is good! It is helping us to see a place where we are habitually out of power and giving us a chance to claim it back. (For more resources on dealing with this kind of discomfort, read about the Mastery Statement methodology for exploring how to turn it into an asset.)
Here’s an example. I used to feel most natural saying:
“I should be more disciplined with my time in the office so I don’t end up staying late so often.”
Not surprisingly, I said this a lot without much changing in my life. Turning this statement around to:
“I make maximum use of my time in the office, do the most important things today and leave the rest for tomorrow so I can leave at a reasonable hour to be with my family.”
This made me uncomfortable because I wasn’t sure I could do it and was afraid if I didn’t ever get to the bottom of my to-do list, people would think I was lazy and an ineffective leader. But when I began to explore this fear, I noticed that I was falling victim to the double-voice discourse mentioned in Part I. In other words, I was prejudging others’ reactions and then tempering my own thoughts, language and behaviors to be consistent with the negative reaction I was trying to avoid. This has the reverse effect of keeping me in the office later!
As I began to experiment with getting the most important things done and leaving the rest for the next day, I noticed that others were happy when I did the important stuff and few even noticed what I didn’t do. When they did notice, I told them when I would do it, and when I kept my word, they were content. My fears turned out to be unfounded, but I’m not sure I would have become fully conscious of them without shifting my thinking and language to a positive statement of what Iwould do instead of a negative statement of what I should do.
Self-doubt has other downsides when it comes to communications. In a survey I ran recently on Speaking Truth to Power, self-doubt was one of the primary reasons that people withheld speaking their truth, leading to a majority of respondents feeling regret because they missed an opportunity to be true to themselves, contribute to their organizations and protect others. Don’t let fear and self-doubt rule you. Learn to use your language powerfully and speak your truth.
We often unconsciously or consciously choose out-of-power language because we want to be flexible and open to others’ ideas. Flexibility is an asset, so it’s not our willingness to be flexible that’s the problem, it’s the fact that the behavior we choose to express it makes us sound uncertain instead of flexible. This is a laudable goal, but when executed by passive out-of-power language, our flexibility may be turned on us by others seeking power over us, or, we may simply lose an opportunity to be more powerful. We can be assertive, flexible and InPower by staying positive, inclusive and using explicit time frames to bound our efforts. Being open-ended, just like being passive, can be an out-of-power stance when the situation calls for certainty.
Out-of-power attempt at flexibility:
We should try to get a variety of opinions before we make the decision on the next set of product features so we don’t miss something important.
Let’s put a survey out to all customers and interview our top prospects by June, which will give us time to research the level-of-effort for each of the primary features. We’ll make the final feature decision by July 1.
Do you see the difference? Not only is the InPower language stronger, it’s more precise.
Our language creates our world, and becoming conscious of the stance you’re taking on creating your world – and evaluating the extent to which it is keeping you InPower or Out-of-power – is a great place to start your InPower journey.
Want to explore this topic in more depth? I’m offering a new eGuide on Speaking Powerfully, including a simple and highly effective 1 week exercise to learn to watch your language and speak powerfully. This eGuide is FREEwhen you register for the eCourse Speaking Truth to Power, held October 16-November 11. This course will go deeper than just your words and help you retrain your brain and emotional dialog to help you know what your truth is and release your fear of speaking it so you can get ahead in your career and be true to yourself in the process! The course is offered at your convenience so you can fit it around work, family and fun. Register now.
This post originally appeared on the Reclaiming Leadership blog. Sign up for my weekly newsletter, InPower Insights, for power-coaching advice, InPower surfing suggestions and recent blog posts.