Updated: Feb 7
Feel an urge.
Rummage in handbag.
Grab a cigarette.
Find the lighter.
Flick it open.
Ignite the flame.
Gesture with cigarette in hand.
Almost without realizing.
As if on autopilot.
Always in certain situations.
Part of who I am.
Yes, but feels so normal...so comforting...so right.
Just over 21 years ago, as we crossed into Y2K, amidst the revelry at a glittering NYE's party in Kingston Jamaica, on the lawns of a beautiful home, I made myself a promise. Throughout the night, I took cigarettes out of a familiar blue and white pack, and lit them with a beautifully crafted lighter I'd managed not to lose for over a decade.
I was a smoker and had been since the summer before University when I was 18. Smoking wasn't yet antisocial ... seemed rather social at the time. But I wasn't a social smoker. I was a worried at the end of the night if only one remained in the pack kind of smoker. It was a noticeable part of who I was back then. In retrospect, my friends and I, who all took up smoking together, likely saw smoking as a passport to the future that awaited us beyond high school. That would have been just as intoxicating as the nicotine. But I digress.
While the world wondered what would happen to the computers when 1999 became 2000, I wandered off to the edge of the party. Feeling reflective, I acknowledged to myself that my smoking habit was ultimately self-destructive. I concluded that I did not want to have a hand in my own destruction. The passport had expired and I was ready for a new one.
I knew what I was feeling wasn't a New Year's resolution in the making, but rather a life resolution to do better for myself. That night I vowed at some point in 2000 to stop smoking. 21 years ago today, I woke up and didn't feel for a cigarette, so I didn't have one. And I have never had one since.
Why am I sharing this?
Because I see a parallel with the verbal habits that underpin most of our communication.
Habits that are being driven by benefits we receive when we use weak language. For some of us it's our deeply ingrained desire to be liked and not be bossy. For others, we don't want to be seen as bossy or aggressive or bitchy. Many more of us learned that it’s one way to show you're polite and friendly.
By examining our own personal motivations driving this habit, we get to decide whether they're actually serving us. I'm referring specifically to minimizing verbal habits that are often well intentioned but can have unintended negative consequences.
Like hedging your words before you share your ideas.
Like downplaying your efforts.
Since most of us aren't aware that minimizing language may be an issue for us, find out where you stand by taking this two minute quiz to see whether you are minimizing yourself with your habitual word choices. Minimizing language use is prevalent and it's also preventable.
MAXIMIZE not MINIMIZE.