Crafting Your Environment With Language

Frameworks to think and live better

The way we think and express ourselves impacts how we show up in the world. This post outlines techniques to show you how changing your thinking and linguistic frameworks in a few simple ways can drastically improve your life outcomes and relationships.

“You’re the average of the five people spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn

“If you’re around trouble, you’re in trouble.” — My mom

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”-Henry Ford

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”-Ludwig Wittgenstein

“How you label determines how you feel.”-Tim Ferriss

“Communication refers to a process by which someone or something is made common, that is, it is shared.”-John Powell

“A person is a person through other persons.”-Ubuntu

You could argue that in a given moment, we are the sum of our emotions or our attention at that moment. If we seek the good parts, we will see good. If we seek the bad parts, we will see bad. The mind can rationalize practically anything. Mind the stories you tell yourself. The good news is that we can choose what stories to tell. To me, the glass 🥛is neither half-full nor half empty. It’s full — half water and half air. 🤗

Notice that when a sports team wins, a fan might say “we won the finals,” but when the team loses, the fan might say “the Warriors lost.” The collective “we” makes us feel good. It implies a togetherness even though the fan is no more responsible for the win than the loss.

Thoughts become beliefs, beliefs become habits, and habits become our character. Choosing to think positively doesn’t imply ignoring negative thoughts and feelings that arise, but instead going towards the type of world where many of us want to live.

Once you realize you have the power to change your thinking, the next step is execution. Here are some of the most useful changes in thinking that I’ve come across and implemented:

  • Can you… → Would you be willing to… respects the abilities and agency of another.
  • You said… → I heard… acknowledges the subjectivity of your experience
  • I want to, but… → I want to, and… changes from being closeminded and limiting yourself to forcing yourself to think creatively to get what you want. For example, I want a bicycle, but it is expensive, changes to I want a bicycle and need to save $50 per week for ten weeks to afford it. This particular change in thought applies both to outer and inner talk. Figuring out the things that need to occur in the “and” section enables you to ask yourself the question “would I be willing…” to make this happen. Whether the answer is yes or no is helpful, as no gives you clarity about your priorities, and yes spurs you into action to manifest your desired outcome.
  • I need to… → I want to… reframes obligation as desire. Many things we claim we need are not needs at all.
  • I have to… → I get to… reframes a burden as an opportunity. For example, I have to drive to work this morning, changes to I get to listen to my favorite podcast in the car this morning.
  • You are… → I think/feel takes personal ownership of the experience. For example, You are mean, could change to I feel hurt.

Tell me more… one of the most potent phrases in English for encouraging deeper sharing.

This is especially helpful for going beyond the surface and into the depths. For example, if you ask someone how they are doing (and you give a crap), saying “tell me more” after they reply with a basic “fine,” “good,” etc. encourages more sharing and connection. It also makes sure no stone is left unturned. This phrase can be used repeatedly to get to the bottom of things. It’s similar to the five whys approach to problem-solving. The five whys approach uses repetition to get to the root cause of a problem. Be mindful that asking “why” about feelings often decreases connection rather than increases it.

Emotions are not moral but simply factual. My emotions don’t make me a good or bad person. — John Powell

Meaningful pauses allow others to fill gaps, share more, or new awareness to bubble up inside of you.

Simply taking a moment of pause during a conversation goes a long way. It helps us practice listening, rather than simply waiting for our turn to speak. Often others will continue to speak and fill the void if you don’t interrupt them, or wait a moment before replying. Taking a moment of pause also allows you to digest what was said. Pausing helps you better express yourself or determine whether or not a reply is needed. By reply, I mean adding things of your own, rather than replying merely to acknowledge and demonstrate understanding. The art of listening deserves a tome by itself, but this TED Talk is a good start. Remember RASA

RASA, which is the Sanskrit word for “juice” or “essence.” And RASA stands for “Receive,” which means pay attention to the person; “Appreciate,” making little noises like “hmm,” “oh,” “OK”; “Summarize” — the word “so” is very important in communication; and “Ask,” ask questions afterwards. — Julian Treasure

Making statements versus asking questions. Mind your use of declarative, imperative, and interrogative statements. For example, asking, “are you hungry?” when the truth is “I am hungry!” Don’t increase your pitch at the end of declarative sentences in an attempt to make them questions. For example, “It’s 5 o’clock (with a whacky inflection at the end).” would be better said as “What time is it?” Be mindful of asking why questions in interpersonal communication. Sometimes we ask why out of genuine curiosity, and this is ok. Other times, asking is a mask for saying that we are confused or upset. For example, “Why do you listen to music so loud?” could be rephrased as “I’m having trouble concentrating, would you be willing to turn down the music? ”

Safeporting- a safety check tool for conversations to determine if something is a go or no-go. Safeporting involves asking a question before moving forward with a conversation. Think of it like the shisa kanko technique used by Japanese transportation authorities. The technique assists in

“raising the consciousness levels of workers” — according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Japan.

For example, if your partner comes home and says, “Wow, today sucked!” You might typically say, “Tell me about it.” But, perhaps they don’t want to talk about it. If you are safeporting, you could instead reply with “Would you like to talk about it?” Then, if the answer is no, the buck stops there. Safeporting helps to ensure that the environment is primed for a conversation to be a success. If not, don’t proceed! Bill Clinton famously made sure all parties were well fed and hydrated before beginning a negotiation. Regardless of how difficult a negotiating session may be, the likelihood of reaching a comfortable solution diminishes if people enter the negotiation hungry and thirsty. Perhaps SNICKERS said it best with their ad, “You’re not you when you’re hungry!” 🍫