Saturday, September 22, 2012

The power in "what ifs," part 2.

Last time I wrote about what what-iffing all the bad things that might happen could do, and what could go differently if you what-iffed how good things could be.

Today? The power in phrasing ideas as "what ifs" to allow someone to see something differently in an encouraging way.

I'm sure we all know someone who, being on the outside of his or her life, we can see that a lot of what he or she is complaining about is obviously either being blown out of proportion or, if anything, something that he or she is bringing on himself or herself. (All of that to be gender-neutral without using the plural, "they.")

For example, a client was recently moving into a new place, and he was telling me how stressful the move was becoming for him and how crazy he knew the move would make him. After a few weeks of this I realized that it sounded empty, like he was convincing himself that moving would make him crazy without it actually doing so, but I couldn't put my finger on why. He then explained some of the crazy circumstances he'd been in during previous moves that had made moving before more stressful because of the other situations needing his attention -- none of which was the case now. It suddenly made sense, and I asked him, "What if moving didn't have to be stressful and make you crazy?"

This happens a lot with people; the idea that it doesn't have to be this way simply doesn't occur to them until the idea of an alternative is presented.

Now, consider the difference in phrasing:

"What if it didn't have to be this way?"
"You know, it doesn't have to be this way."

What sort of gut reaction did you have just reading the two different wordings? One suggests an alternate possibility that you might like to explore; the other basically tells you you're doing it wrong. Which would you rather hear?

And what about you? Whatever you're struggling with right now, what if it didn't have to be a struggle? What if it were actually easy? Who would you be if it were easy? Why not be that person now?

The difference in the mindset with which you approach something -- expecting it to be hard vs. expecting something good to come of it -- can make all the difference in the world.

1 comment:

Stephanie Katz Levadi said...

I love the perspective you ask us to have. That by simply changing a few words, the message and emotional charge can be completely changed! Thank you for sharing your insights.