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Not Jogging

I was conducting a Procabulary workshop at a health and detox resort in Thailand last month with a focus on goal-setting. I asked one participant what his number one goal was. “Easy,” he said, “to get fit and stay fit.”

So I asked him how he planned on doing that, if he was going to exercise or change his diet.

He replied, “Yeah, I guess.”

Is that a yes or is that a no.”

Yes. Yes, I will exercise.”

What kind of exercise?

He paused for a moment. “Not Jogging.”

He let out a frustrated exhale and leaned back in his seat.

Here was yet another crystal clear example of the power Negations have over us. The words, “Not Jogging” of course made him visualize being miserable while jogging, corrupted his energy, stressed his breath and royally screwed up his body language.

I then asked him what kind of exercise he did want to do.

Martial Arts.”

He started to get excited. His body language changed. His breath changed. He said there was a Thai boxing gym right down the street from his hotel. He pulled out his phone and scrolled through his calendar, searching for the soonest time he could begin.

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Conflict Language: Killer Combos

LEFT JAB high. RIGHT CROSS to the body. Another LEFT JAB high. REAR THAI KICK to the head. It takes Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone less than three seconds to pull off this brilliant, devastating combo during his match at UFC 202. Brutal? Yes. Effective? Absolutely.

I’ve been practicing martial arts for over twenty years. Kickboxing, Brazilian jiu jitsu, wrestling, you name it. And in my early twenties – before I discovered my passion for language and personal development – I was a mixed martial arts fighter.

The parallels between martial arts and the work we do at Procabulary are many. What Cerrone reminded me of during his powerful strike combination was the compounding effects of Conflict Language and just how brutal they can be when we unleash these types of words on ourselves.

“I don’t want to keep bothering you with this, it’s just, I wish you weren’t so distant when things like this happen.”

Conflict Combos like these are notorious in our relationships. Let’s break it down strike by strike:

“I don’t want to keep bothering you with this-“

These words place our focus on what it is we “don’t” want to do. The words “keep bothering” accuse and implicate us in perpetual annoyances – which we’ll assume is not the goal.

TRANSLATION: “I want to clearly communicate this to you-“

Sometimes it’s best to err on the side of sounding clinical – especially when emotions are high.

“it’s just-“

Classic Soft Talk. Take it out.

“I wish you weren’t so distant when things like this happen.”

There’s a few ways to tackle this kick to the head. Let’s go the Projection/Reflection route and see what happens. Remember, with Projections, we want to get everyone out of the room except for us.

“I wish I weren’t so distant when things like this happen.”
Accurate or Inaccurate?
If it’s accurate, then you’re projecting. If it’s inaccurate, try playing with the Negation.

“I would prefer you to-“

Procabulary Pro Tip: Save wishes for the genie in the magic lamp. Ask people directly and clearly instead.

“I would prefer you talk with me about how you’re feeling…”

BOOM. We went from knocking ourselves out with the killer combo:
“I don’t want to keep bothering you with this, it’s just, I wish you weren’t so distant when things like this happen.”

To speaking like a pro with:
“I want to clearly communicate this to you: I would prefer you talk with me about how you’re feeling when things like this happen.”

Just like with martial arts, practicing Procabulary makes perfect. Get your reps in day by day and marvel at the results.


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“Don’t Burn Bridges”, Strengthen Them

You’re working for a terrible boss or having trouble with a particularly taxing client or friend and finally enough is enough! It’s time to “give them a piece of my mind!

Then you remember to breathe, your rational mind calms and suddenly you remember the old adage, “don’t burn bridges.”

It’s a great concept and one that I fully endorse. However, as Procabulary jedis will be quick to point out, the phrase is in Negation. It’s focus is on an undesired outcome and places the image of a burning bridge (and disastrous relationship fallout) clearly in our minds.

So let’s translate this statement. What do we want to happen? What is the desired outcome of “don’t burn bridges”?

My vote: “Do Strengthen Bridges”

You might be reading this and think of a particulary annoying situation in which the person deserved an exploding bridge – burning would’ve been kind. I get that. We’ve all been there. Here’s my counter.

If we choose to be elegant in our way, if we demonstrate to the other party and (here’s the kicker) to those observing our behavior that this is how we conduct ourselves in the face of conflict – the benefits both personally and in our professional circles will far outweigh the short term release of anger.

People grow, they change, they gain perspective. Sometimes we were right, sometimes they were right. Usually we both share some responsibility for the conflict. Either way, elegantly strengthening bridges with empathy, professionalism and consideration is a guaranteed strategy for short term peace and longterm wisdom.


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Person And Process

A friend of mine sublet her apartment in New York for six months while she traveled the world. She found someone to take the flat almost immediately, with the only complication being that they would have to share the space for a ten day overlap before her flight.

My friend has one of those winning personalities that is nearly conflict-proof. She gets along with everyone. Ten days would be no problem and besides, the subletter seemed like a nice guy.

It turned out that he was indeed a nice guy AND he was also a depressed alcoholic. She’d come home from work and find the guy stuck on the same place on the sofa, empty cans and bottles lining the tables.

The day before her flight she returned home and found him perusing her bookshelf. He saw Eckhart Tolle, Tony Robbins, Byron Katie, Paolo Coelho, etc. The personal development classics.

He looked at her and asked, straight-faced, “Why do you need to read these types of books? You’re already happy.

Why do you need to read these types of books? You’re already happy.

When she told me the story, I was immediately reminded me of the old Roseanne Barr joke, “Y’know what the worst part about exercise is? You gotta keep doin’ it.”

We’ve all used the subletter’s logic before in our lives. “Why does she work so hard? She’s already successful.” OR “Why is he so strict about his diet? He’s already in great shape.” OR “Why does she meditate so much? They’re already peaceful.”

This is something we at Procabulary like to call Person and Process. A person is a culmination of their process and that process ultimately forms that person.

This is why I correct my own language everyday. Because I know that consistently processing my words will lead me to achieving my goals and being an all around better human.

Focus on the Process and the Person will show up like magic.

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“They Just Don’t Get It”

I’ve had the pleasure over the past decade to invest some time living in expat communities throughout Asia and South America. I’ve met wonderful friends in these places and have been introduced to valuable ideas and lifestyles unique to these circles. A few years ago I noticed a pattern of conversation in expat communities that […]

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Emotional Immune System

How do babies develop their immune systems? They crawl around and get into everything. They touch, they taste, they breathe; exposing themselves to a large diaspora of germs and pathogens. Babies do this instinctively. If all goes well they develop a healthy immune system that can keep them resilient and strong as they grow. The same […]

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Leap of Faith or a Step in the Right Direction?

I attended a personal development workshop a few years ago presented by a well known lifestyle “guru”. I have to admit, it was a masterful blend of comedy, spiritual growth and personal development. Everyone in the room stayed engaged throughout. At the end of the day the presenter asked us – make that PLEADED with us – to take that final […]

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“Yes, Actually”

I was conducting a goal setting workshop recently at a Hollywood-based yoga studio. I asked everyone in attendance to write down some of their goals so that we could develop strategies as a group. After a few minutes one student raised his hand and read his goal aloud, “I can actually make money doing what I love.” Overwhelmingly positive, right? Mostly, yes. There […]

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