"Never define people or situations in terms of their effect on you, unless you want to give them the power to make you feel that way."
~ Bill Crawford

“Never define people or situations in terms of their effect on you, unless you want to give them the power to make you feel that way.”
~ Bill Crawford

Influencing How We Experience Difficult People

As I continue to look for ways to help people experience more happiness and success in life, this concept has become one of my favorites. The reason for this has to do with the power of language, and how we may be unwittingly using it against ourselves.

For example, how many times have you heard people describe the negative situations that they encounter as frustrating, annoying, overwhelming, or even depressing? While these descriptions are understandable, I suggest that describing them based upon how they effect us (or “make us feel”) is giving the negative people and situations we encounter way more power than we want them to have.

In other words, while I’m sure that many people feel frustrated, annoyed, overwhelmed, and even depressed at times, I’m also confident that most people want to know how to change these reactions, or how to become more influential in how they experience the negative experiences they face. If this is the case, then I suggest we begin by choosing language that supports this more influential perspective.

The good news is that this is easier to accomplish than you might think. All we have to do is pay attention to three little letters… “ing.” Because when we put this ending on a description of an emotion or reaction (frustrating, annoying, overwhelming, depressing, etc.), we are describing it in terms of how it effects us or makes us feel, and therefore we are, by definition, giving it a tremendous amount of power in our lives.

Now, there are times where we want to describe events or encounters in this way because we want the effect. In other words, describing a speaker or book as inspiring or motivating, or an event as exciting also gives this external stimuli the power to make us feel a certain way. However, given that the feelings (inspired, motivated, excited) are ones we want, this has us using language, and assigning influence in a way that serves us or enriches the quality of our lives.

Of course, those who follow my “Life from the Top of the Mind” philosophy know that every external stimuli is perceived as or interpreted as either neutral, positive, or negative by the middle part of our brain (the limbic system), and this interpretation determines whether the data we receive from our senses will be routed down to the brainstem (releasing stress related chemicals such as cortisol) or up to the neocortex where we can choose how we think and feel about it.

Therefore, I suggest that we begin to describe a particular situation in a more purposeful, “Top of the Mind” fashion, or a way that is congruent with how we want to feel about it (confident, creative, flexible, patient, influential, etc.). This could have us seeing deadlines, traffic, a lack of time or resources, even difficult people as places to practice defining ourselves deliberately, or “on purpose,” in a way we would recommend to someone we love. Given that we will most certainly experience these situations in the future, this willingness to practice can begin to create a new way of being where we are the ones determining how we feel and who we are.

If this more influential way of life appeals to you, I suggest that you become very purposeful with the “ings” in your life, and make sure that you are using these three little letters in ways that are effective, help you make the statement you want to make about who you are, and are ways you would recommend to someone you love. In doing so, you will be taking charge of how you perceive and/or interpret the incoming data and the thoughts and feelings that follow. Pretty inspiring, motivating, and exciting, don’t you think?

~ All the best, Dr. Bill