Have you ever noticed how some words you use have a subtle way of bringing you down? The big ones for me are “I should” and “I have to.” I used to say these words all the time without realizing all I was expressing what I didn’t really want to do at all and giving away my power in the process. I would often find myself saying to my husband, Ralph: “I should ring your mum.” Ralph’s mum is 94, living in a nursing home and suffers from mild dementia. Whenever I did call her it would cause her a lot of confusion and distress and simply serve to remind her that we were living a great life in Bali while she was stuck in her “prison”. Inevitably I wouldn’t ring her, and then all I would have achieved was to feel guilty about not doing so.
So now I simply say to myself or anyone who cares to listen: “I choose not to call Ralph’s mum.” And, surprise, surprise, I don’t feel bad about it. Instead, we make sure we come to Australia more often and take her out to dinner. These face to face meetings are much more productive and we have a genuine connection which we can’t achieve over the phone.
There are other victim words I have added to my black list: “I’ll try to.” “Hopefully.” “Maybe” and “perhaps.” People like me who like to please others use these words all the time. We can’t bear to disappoint people by saying no. No wonder my daughter, Hayley, always used to accuse me of being wishy washy! I’ve now learnt to either do it, or not do it, but not to half commit.
For example, when you tell someone, “I’ll try to make it to your party” neither you nor the person you’re talking to are sure what the outcome will be. You leave everyone feeling confused. Simply say, “I’ll be there” or “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to make it.” You don’t need to make up an excuse. Just state your intention clearly. That way, you both know where you stand.
It feels weird at first but eliminating pappy guilt speak from your system really does change how you feel. People learn to trust you more and that trust makes you more powerful and creates greater self-confidence.
Of course, the greatest example of this is the time you truly do become a person of your word when you are standing at the altar facing the person to whom you will make the greatest commitment of your life.
There’s a reason we don’t say “This should work out.” Or, “maybe we’ll stay married.” Or “Hopefully we’ll grow old together.” These statements are setting us up for failure. Instead, tradition has given us the most powerful two words of all.
There’s no arguing with these two tigers. You are stating your intention in black and white. If saying them feels strange or unfamiliar, don’t wait till your wedding day to speak them. Practice getting them into your language now. “I do keep my word.” “I do work out every day.” “I do eat healthy food.” “I do like seeing my mother-in-law”. No more coulds, shoulds, maybes or perhaps.
Know that when it does come time to look your partner in the eye and say “I do”, that they will not be hollow words, but fuelled by the power of love and commitment, the most life changing promise you will ever make.