Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Never Say, 'Never'

I've been thinking a lot about JK's comment on yesterday's post Teflon's Guide to Optimal Learning:
I like this article. I would like it better if all the "nevers" were replaced with "onlys" (it is a lot more positive that way!) It reminded me of my piano teacher - it IS a good idea to look at the music, if you're looking at your fingers they should be hit repeatedly!lol (jk)
There's an Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practice where you recast all negative statements in the affirmative. Rather than saying, "I'll never eat processed sugar again", you might say something like, "I'm going to eat only vegetables and fish." Rather than saying, "I've gotta get out of this job", you might say, "I'm going to find a job that's right for me."

It's a verbalization of the zen practice of moving towards what you want rather than away from what you don't want. It's wonderfully useful and for many, confounding.


Yeah, confounding. You'd be amazed at how often someone who's just adamantly stated that she'll never do something again or never see someone again will struggle to recast the statement into affirmative action.

This situation embodies two distinct challenges:

  1. Translating a passive complaint into something actionable, and
  2. Thinking of an action that is moving towards something desirable rather than away from something undesirable.
Sometimes the loudest and most frequently uttered negative statements are nothing more than conversational filler or behavioral patterns. These statements often have ulterior motives; they garner attention; they win sympathy; they help the utterer avoid unpleasant topics. Despite their apparent emotional charge, they lack any depth of passion (as evidenced by the simple fact that they've never been successfully acted upon). 

The simplest response to a passive complaint is: "So what?" or "So..."

OK, I get that you can't stand Stephanie. So what are you going to do about?

You've made it clear that you don't like me working late on Thursdays. So what do you want me to do instead?

The response to So? may be a positive action (moving towards something) or negative action (moving away from something). The important thing is to translate passive to active. 

Oftentimes, there is no So what? The complaint is nothing more than a way of letting off steam or it has an ulterior motive.  However, once you have an action, you can begin step two: translate moving away from into moving towards. 

The basic question is: What do you want?

Frequently the response will be something not wanted.

Well I for sure don't want you hanging out with Tim anymore!

I just don't want to be carrying around all this extra weight!

To these types of statement, the response might be: OK, I understand what you don't want, but the question still remains, "what do you want instead?"

It may take a surprisingly long time to get to a positive statement of action. You might return to the same series of questions day after day, week after week.  She might roll her eyes or say things like, "There he goes again" whenever you embark on this line of reasoning.  

He might stop complaining when you're in the room. She may avoid you altogether. As I said, it's amazing.

Yup, recasting negative passivity to positive action is critical to implementing affirmative change. If you've integrated that into your daily living, then I'd like to introduce you to another great tool: Never.

Moving-away-from is not a bad practice in and of itself.  It's just debilitating when it becomes your most frequently employed or only practice. Why? Because Never is powerful.  

Fire can burn down your house, but it can also cook your food and keep you warm. Never can stop you from ever doing anything or it can empower you to do more.  The answer lies in how you use it.

I like the economy of Never.  For every never, I can think of a thousand always. It's easier to remember one never as a trigger-thought than trying to remember the thousand alwayses. There's a  place and time for never.  It's only problematic when you only use never (and of course, when you never use never.)

Happy Tuesday, 

1 comment:

  1. “Always and never” we call these universal quantifiers. Be very, very sure when you use
    them because you are sticking your neck out! Did people always believe man could or would actually walk on the moon? Did they once believe that it simply never possible?! Someone challenged that belief! Did people always think the earth was flat? What a silly idea yet it was a correct one after all!

    This is only my opinion, always and never have their place; in science!

    Great blog Teflon and Great job! John


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