Let me share two examples from my practice last week. Currently I happen to coach an accomplished CHRO of a company who’s committed to delivering his best for the organization. Backed by a rich experience of over 20 years he understands the organizational nuances, be it People, their Prejudices or Politics at work. He confided his restlessness about increase in his short-temperament caused by these three Ps. He said, after narrating an incident “…under these circumstances there’s no way but to react like this…”. As he spoke, I sensed the change in his breathing and pain in his voice. A nudge to reflect on his feelings in the moment revealed the impact of the word “react”, when encouraged to describe the emotions he acknowledged feeling stressed.
Before we dive deeper, let me share another coaching session with a senior executive. This executive brings impeccable credentials to her new job & role as the change catalyst of a Fortune 200 company. She was using the coaching session to bounce-off her multifaceted situation -- of high expectations & faith of seniors in her, difficulty in deciphering market reality, trying circumstances in personal life, her ambivalence in dealing with a older male-dominated peer group in company and her own desire & impatience to add value. As she described the scenario, heaviness & confusion was evident in her quip, “…it’s all very overwhelming”. My nudge to reflect revealed to her that her choice of the word ‘overwhelming’ had accentuated her feelings of helplessness & anxiety.
The above examples indicate the choice of words had produced emotions that appeared energy draining. As a coach, I asked both these people that if they were to replace their choice of words what would that be. The words which emerged in these situations were “respond” and “challenge” =in place of “react “and “overwhelm” . As theyrephrased their statements their exhausting feelings got replaced with the more refreshing and bouncy ones of keenness, anticipation, curiosity and interest. As these separate explorations progressed further,one couldn’t help but notice the common thread of buoyant emotions and a ‘can do’ approach with locus of control firmly lying on person. Both their inner and outer emotions had changed.Over the years, I have experienced, experimented with and guided others to cultivate a muscle memory that helps one change their conscious and unconscious vocabulary. We can certainly draw an inspiration from a 200 year-old poem by Letitia Elizabeth Landon