Mind Your Language

I’ve talked previously about how important it is for us to manage our energy, and that when we aren’t intentional about gathering, guarding and directing our energy it can leak. leaving us ineffective.  A few other things that have been fed into my perspective over the years and recently came together to add to this over the past few days, and I’d like to share that with you.
Having been away for a few weeks, I arrived back in Zimbabwe just over a week ago.  One of the things I’ve always loved about the Zim community are the people – their constant willingness to smile and wave and chat.  Not the people you know well, but the people who make our lives easier by guarding gates, selling airtime and car licence disks at the traffic lights, veggies in the supermarket car park etc.  There is one particular gentleman at a traffic light I often pass through who’s been there for years and who always comes to my window to greet me.
I’ve been through that traffic light a few times in the past week, and each time I’ve rolled down my window to greet him.  He smiled as he approached me, and when I asked him how he was doing, his whole demeanour changed.  His shoulders dropped and hunched forward.  His head and eyes dropped, and he let out a heavy “Aaaaaargh…….life is tough”.  I had driven up that road talking myself into a more positive frame of mind over an email I’d received, so my own energy was on the climb again, and when I opened my window and received his response, I felt like I’d been energetically punched in the gut.  I wished him well and drove through the now-green light contemplating that gut punch.
I contemplated the theory that our thoughts become words, which become actions, which decide our path.  I contemplated what I know about how the words we use create pictures in the minds of others and that they then act on those pictures, and that the pictures we paint with our words are more important than the words themselves.  I thought about how careful we are with the language we use in aviation – how we don’t say “take-off” in a sentence that doesn’t directly mean “go ahead and take off”, so there’s never any doubt about the clearance you’re being given.  How you don’t tell your co-pilot to “cheer up” half way down your take off roll in case he mishears you and lifts the gear (undercarriage).
I thought about how, on a recent workshop I attended, we were asked which emotions we like to “do”, as in where do we catch ourselves defaulting back to often (because it’s a choice)?  I thought about everything Tony Robbins says about “state” – how we use our whole bodies to feel and communicate emotions.  For example, if I say, “do sad”, you’d probably slouch forward, lower your head and eyes, and make yourself smaller, droop your facial features.  Yet if I said, “do ecstatic!” you’ll open your body up, stand taller, even jump, make some noise and throw your arms out!  Your face and your energy would be just as different.
So, if the words that we use in our heads create our own thoughts and pictures about how our lives are, and if we share the energy of those words with others – “doing” that energy with our whole bodies – and we affect not only others with that energy, but the direction of our own trajectory in life…..then shouldn’t we watch our language?
The language in our own head.  The language that comes out of our mouths.  The energy we spread around with our stories and indeed, the very stories we perpetuate?
When I got back to that traffic light the next time round, and wound down my window as said gentleman approached, I asked the same question.  “How are you doing?”.  He gathered his energy and put it all into changing his state from the smile he’d had on his face to the “Aaaarghhhhh….life is tough” answer again.  In the limited time I had before the queue of cars moved on through the light, I took off my sunglasses, smiled and said to him (shaking my head) “I’m not opening my window to hear that story.  Tell a better one.”  He burst out laughing and gave me a fist bump.
I have no doubt his life is hard.  None at all.  It’s heart breaking to see how hard life is for everyone in Zim at the moment.  I don’t have enough money to save everyone I meet at the traffic lights, or in the supermarket car parks.  But I can make sure I mind my language and change the story I tell.  I can change the energy I have and the emotions I “do” with my body, and I can send a different ripple through the people I encounter.  Every one of us can do the same.
If everyone in Zim watched the language they used with themselves and others, changed the picture they’re painting with their words and demanded that we start telling a different story…..who knows….perhaps the story would change?  The energy certainly would.  And if we had more and better energy, we could definitely change our story, our trajectory, and the way we ripple through the lives of others.
What story are you telling today, wherever you happen to be?  How are you minding your language?  Your energy?  What emotions are you “doing” with your whole body, and do you need to make better choices?  What ripple are you sending out, and can you intentionally make sure it’s adding rather than subtracting from the experience of others and the combined energy we have to work with?

by Christen Killick

March 9th, 2020

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