Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Why?" Our Choice Of Words Matter

So as promised, I'm writing a post about a conversation I had with a man on the phone.  The man I spoke to is the man who used to own the house we just bought...and the reason for his call was to plan a time to pick up a door he left behind that had been what they'd used to record the growth of their sons.  What would have normally been a two minute conversation with anyone else, as usual, turned into about an hour worth of conversation.  The man is a talker...but not at all a pain to listen to.  I actually enjoy his calls.

The two of us have talked about all sorts of things on the phone...he's an older man, retired, and has lots of time to just chat.  And as someone who doesn't get out much, I have some time to chat too.  And he's worth listening to.   Now, I'm not just saying that because I'm kind-hearted, or because I'm too nice, or whatever.  He really has some interesting things to say, and seems like one of those wise people I only get a chance to meet on very rare occasions.  I've found most people can talk your ear off without ever really saying much of anything.  But this man...he will fill you with ideas, and make you think about things you would have otherwise never thought much about in the first place...because they don't SEEM to matter.  But, when they're broken down...they do.  They DO matter.

For example, he talked to me about a book he's writing.  Now, I'm not going to get into it too much because it's not yet been finished, and I want him to have the chance to publish it without someone ruining that grand moment for him.  But I'll tell you part of our conversation.  It was about our use of the word "why".

He said to me that there are different parts of our brains that are triggered by different questions.  "How", "What", "When", etc., are all in a part of our brain that are linked with speech.  So, when someone says to you "How could you forget to do that?"  You can say, "Well, I had a lot on my mind, and I got busy, and it just slipped past me."  You have the ability to put into words HOW you managed to forget.

When someone says, "What are you doing?"  You can answer that easy enough.  "What" is verbal.

And an example he used was when a parent says to their child "You are so stupid", it is harmful to the child, but not in the same way it is if that parent was to say "Why are you so stupid?"

"Why" questions are not answered in the verbal area of our brain.  It has no voice.  The answers are deep inside of our subconscious, and we answer them to OURSELVES...and store those answers and feelings within our own brains.

For example, when a parent asks their child "Why are you so stupid? Why can't you be more like your brother/sister?", the brain goes into action and answers that question will go through all the possible answers about WHY they are so stupid, and why they'll never be as good as their brother/sister.  And that is lifelong damage...because it can't be spoken.  It can't be fixed because there is no voice to even identify the pain it caused.

Words can hurt the ones we love the most.
And, in the same way that "why" can be used to damage a child, it can be used to lift them up.  It can be used to have that child answer to themselves why it is that they are fantastic.  "Why are you so wonderful?", "Why are you always so loving?", "Why do you make me so happy?"  With these questions, you set your child's brain into action.  You get their brain listing all the reasons they are so wonderful, so loving, and the reasons they make you so very happy.  Over time, even a child who has been subjected to negative comments can heal.  This is a great way to speed up that process...train their brain to tell them WHY they are so wonderful.

This also works for us...the adults.  There are times that our children (particularly in that stubborn age between 3-5 years old), drive us crazy.  I'm not going to lie, there are days I have wanted to run away...if only I could find my other shoe...  LOL
But we can program our own brains too.  We can ask our children "Why do I love you so much?"  To them, the choice of words will immediately cause them to think that we're just saying "I love you so much."  Their brains will start to answer WHY we love them so much...but so will OURS.  Suddenly we're not only causing our children's brains to tell them all the reasons we love them, but it's telling ours why we do, too.  And it doesn't take long before our subconscious makes it impossible NOT to think of the reasons we love them, every time we ask them that.  Soon the love we have for them, a love we didn't think could possibly be stronger, grows.

And words can lift them up.
I know this to be true because of seeing the way the previous owner of our house speaks to his wife, and how he speaks ABOUT her.  I honestly have never heard a man talk about his wife with so much love.  And it's because he has spent years asking her why he loves her so much.  He told me that she thinks he's just saying that he loves her, but really he is purposely programming his brain to list the reasons why he loves her so much.

Sometimes because of stress, or just from being tired, a person can use words they didn't mean to use...or wouldn't have used had they been in a better frame of mind.  It happens.  Shit happens.  But we don't need to just leave it like that.  We have the opportunity every single day to change things.  We have the ability to lift up not only our children, but everyone else in our lives that mean something to us.

I challenge you to use "why" in your questions...but use it to lift people up, not drag them down.  When we take the time to be aware of our choice of words, we can make all the difference in someone's life.  Go out and make that difference.

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