Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Verbal reality or how to punch people in the face with your words.

Verbal reality or how to punch people in the face with your words.

For my parents 25th wedding anniversary I gave them an empty photo album. Inside the plastic sleeves I had little pieces of paper that said things like, “Mom and Dad in front of the Eiffel Tower,” or “Mom and Dad in Venice.” The idea was that I was going to give them a trip to Europe in honor of their special anniversary. Aren’t I a great oldest son?

The only problem was that I never did.

I wanted to. I had every intention. When I gave that gift to them in front of dozens of their friends I was certain that I was going to give them that trip. But the truth is, it was never going to happen. I was never going to be able save up that kind of money. I was never going to fulfill that promise. I was just living in a verbal reality.

I don’t know who came up with that concept, but I wish it was me. Here’s how it works: A verbal reality is the belief that by simply saying something out loud, you’ve ensured that it is going to come true. Regardless of your past track record or logic or anything else, your words guarantee that something is going to happen or did happen. It’s kind of a subtle form of lying.

When I told my parents that I was sending them to Europe, I really meant it. But my commitment to making that happen started and finished with those words. Have you ever done that? Or worse, had that done to you? It’s frustrating and my friends do the same thing too. My friend that is prone to sleeping with strangers he meets online is going to do better next time because, “he’s going to make better decisions.” Has he put any plans in place or safeguards to ensure he’ll stay out of danger? No, but he said the words, so it’s bound to happen.

I once spent 4 weeks in Costa Rica studying Spanish during college. For about ten years I would tell people about that experience by saying, “I lived in Costa Rica.” One time my wife finally said to me, “You didn’t live in Costa Rica. You visited it for a few weeks. You didn’t really live there.” In my desire to impress, I had stretched the truth of four weeks into living in Costa Rica.

Maybe you don’t struggle with creating verbal realities. Maybe my background in advertising makes it more tempting for me to spin things in my favor. Or maybe right now, you’re stuck in the middle of a reality you know really isn’t true. Regardless of where you are, I hope today you’ll take a minute to think about what your words say about your reality.

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