Language is a powerful component of culture!
It is defined as "a complex system of symbols with conventional meanings that people use for communication." Although language includes nonverbal communication and written symbols, our focus here is the spoken word.
Language as a powerful force in our lives can inspire, motivate and express love; it can also incite to riot, paralyze with fear, humiliate, and alienate. I find it absolutely amazing that something as simple as a series of letters strung together from a small collection of 26 can be arranged in various configurations to form unique sounds that can wield such force.
We can all share example after example (our own or that of others) where we/they blamed the utterance of a word or phrase for landing us/them in dire circumstances. We are also familiar with what we label "bad" words, those words that make some cringe when they hear them roll off the tongue of a child or that stir in us emotions of anger, exclusion, hate, or disgust.
"The thoughts we think and the words we speak
create our experiences." - Louise L. Hay
One of my topic faves is the power of thoughts. Let's consider a few words that when coupled with negative beliefs (thoughts) can strip us of our power, constrain our process of self-discovery, and make our journey in our desired direction nearly impossible to successfully navigate.
The words I believe we can thrive without are should and shouldn't, but let's not forget that can't, never and always have the potential to do some serious damage, as well.
Our communications are laced with shoulds, shouldn'ts, and can'ts. I should be a doctor because my parents made so many sacrifices to get me here; I should get married because my family wants me to; I should go to college because everyone expects me to; I should have children because everyone expects me to; I shouldn't take this job because I would have to move away and my family would be disappointed; I hate this job but I can't quit; I can't afford time off; and the list goes on and on.
For one week, pay close attention to the number of times you use should, shouldn't and can't in your communications.
Ask yourself, 'Why'? One of my favorite exercises in Louise Hay's book, You Can Heal Your Life is the "I Should, Exercise." She encourages her new clients to compose a list of about five or six statements that begin with I should. As they read each statement, she asks them, "Why?"
Asking "why" brings a whole new sense of awareness to what drives our shoulds and shouldn'ts. In most, if not all cases, we find that we are doing or not doing something because someone else said we should or shouldn't. No wonder we don't feel good and find ourselves unhappy! A life filled with shoulds and shouldn'ts is a life we are not living for ourselves.
Apparently, what we want or don't want is wrong and everyone else is right. My response to this is "NOT"! When we ask ourselves, "What do I really, really, really want"; now we're getting somewhere, but only if honest with ourselves.
Using should and shouldn't is also a great way to avoid personal responsibility - sure we can blame someone else for our choices, but isn't that giving our power away? In doing so, once again, we give others power over our lives. How sad to relinquish such an amazing opportunity to create the lives we want.
Use of the words should and shouldn't can be directive, accusatory, and limiting. Aren't we the directors of our lives? Blaming others or ourselves isn't productive at all. And, why limit yourself by closing the door to other possibilities and opportunities?
A great alternative to the word should is the word could. Rather than I should ..., you can say, I could... or I could..., Now there's choice. Choice is open to other possibilities.
Choice is a wonderful thing!
Now there's that pesky word can't. Use of the word can't can also be limiting. There are times when others thrust the word can't upon us, but typically we play this self-limiting game all by ourselves.
If when responding with I can't we mean I won't then perhaps we just don't want to do the thing in question. However, if our first response is can't, implying that we are incapable, it's too hard, or even it's impossible, try asking instead, how can I? Asking how can I, again, keeps the door to possibilities and opportunities wide open.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” - Henry Ford
As far as never and always is concerned, great care can be taken with these words as well. There is an implication of finality and absoluteness, which again seems to close the door to possibility, opportunity, and change.
When we use never, is what we're saying true? "He never listens to me." Is that really true? "I'm always late." Is that really true?
Knowing and understanding that words wield enormous power, and that the words we speak coupled with the thoughts we think create our experiences, gives us much to consider.
Changing our shoulds to coulds and our can'ts to how can I seem like such simple adjustments that won't really make a difference. I challenge you to test it out for yourself.