“We’re going, and we’re going now.”
How would you feel if you heard these words? Would it depend on who said them, and how they said them?
What if it was an all bold and capitalized statement: “WE’RE GOING, AND WE’RE GOING NOW.”
Or if it was said it like this: “We’re going, and we’re going now, OK?”
Which one would make you jump and run? Uhm, for me, the first one. That little “OK?” in the second version changes the complexion of the whole deal, doesn’t it? Isn’t it funny how the same sentence goes from being a bold statement of intent to a question of agreement? One word — “OK” with a question mark — shifts a string of words from leadership-action energy to wimpy I-dunno-what-do-you-want-to-do energy.
A client called this past week and said, “I keep being passed over for leadership opportunities. I know I have negative energy. How do I change this?” In my mind, I pictured a glass, half full, and wondered if I asked this client to describe it, she’d spend her time focused on how long it would take for the glass to break. She’s got that kind of negative cataclysmic viewpoint, which permeates her entire life and makes everything so much harder than it really has to be.
I suggested she start with her language — if you listen and monitor what you say, you might realize that you almost always say “no”, “don’t”, “should”, “won’t”… if so, honey, you are awash in negativity. To start the shift in the core of your being, every time you use a negative word you must immediately turn it around to something positive. So, “I won’t eat the chocolate sundae” gets paired with “but I will eat some popcorn.” This negative-positive pairing allows you to see the possible positive. Pretty soon you’ll stop using negative and you’ll be living solely in what you can be doing.
And to change your negative energy you have to watch how many times you end a sentence with “OK?” Because while some of us use “OK?” as a punctuator — kind of like “uhm” or “y’know” — the message you’re sending with “OK?” is that you’re really not sure. You need someone else’s agreement. You need their participation. You need their OK. Which may be true in some cases.
But certainly not with cranky toddlers, slouchy teenagers, recalcitrant employees or brand new puppies (I have two new 12-week old puppies this week, so I’m feeling this fairly acutely — not to mention that I live with two teenagers, but they don’t slouch. Much.).
We know that women leaders are often much more collaborative than their male counterparts. It is absolutely fabulous to be collaborative — but let me mention that if you are constantly passed over for leadership roles, then perhaps it’s even more important for you to look at your talk. Are you constantly ending declarative sentences with question marks? Are you telegraphing tentativeness?
When you come down to it, it’s not just women who can be tentative. I know a man who has an imperious first grade daughter. This six-year old rules the roost at home and attempts to do so at school, where all the teachers are mean. And the kids are stupid. According to The Queen. Listening to this father talk with his daughter and got me clear on the root of the matter — he ended every request to his daughter with “OK?”. So she is pretty sure that she gets the last say on pretty much everything at home. And expects to be able to do the same thing at school. She has been given the leadership role, and expects others to be her followers. Especially her daddy.
Her daddy, who keeps saying, “OK?”
And maybe we say, “OK?” because we don’t want to seem mean, or bossy, or too big for our britches, or some other phrase we heard as kids. Maybe we don’t really think we’re smart enough or old enough or something enough to act like a grown up. Maybe it’s just become a habit. A habit that diminishes us, and puts us down one. The kind of habit that leads to living in a negative, nothing’s-working kind of place.
A habit that leads away from a happy life.
If things are not where you want them to be in your life, darlings, make a start by changing your language. Commit to being clear, firm and focused. When you do, you’ll find that you shift right into positive leadership energy. And the person you will be leading first and foremost will be you.