Monday, June 20, 2005

The Pen is Mightier?

Question: Do you think in words, or pictures?

I think in both, and I've noticed while conciously trying to monitor my thoughts over the last few days that I have a tendency to think in words more often than average.

Both are symbols - at the very heart - meaning we don't even think in absolute terms.

Some communications theorists maintain that society, culture, and even our very environment are created by our language - the words we choose to use and pass on to the next generation. For example, in some Native Americain cultures there is no word for green. They have yellow, and blue, but not green. One could argue that in these cultures, green simply does not exist. It's not a race of colourblind people, it's a difference in language.

I had a friend who was multilingual, and when he spent enough time in another country, he would begin to think in the language of that country, instead of his native tongue. I think that he experienced a broader outlook on the world for having the unique perspective of one who can think in multiple language. I am sure his reality is different from mine.

But here's where it gets interesting: if we create our reality through our language, then what kind of situations are we creating for ourselves every day? Of course this relates to "self talk" and how you view yourself, but it also extends (of course) to interpersonal relationships and (gasp!) the workplace. In my work we have a phrase that we like to reference: "Beware the downward Spiral." In it's simplest terms, the downward spiral is when one person starts complaining, and then two more join in, and then suddenly work is miserable and morale is low because everybody got washed away by a wave of negativity. I've noticed that often it's the staff who have been aroung the longest who tend to get caught up in the spiral. Although I have myself engaged in less that positive language on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, some companies foster environments for it.

So do what you can. You alone cannot change an entire work environment by using positive language. You can however, commit yourself to not getting caught up in other peoples negativity, and you can try to create your own positive environment in small ways around you. If we think in words, and our experience is created and shaped by our thoughts, what else can we do if we are to be happy in this life?

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