When listening, I’m always on the lookout for words that are defined by being the opposite of something else.
Nice, is a prime example. What does it mean to be nice? Isn’t it just the explanation for the enjoyment of the bland? Someone is nice by default. They’re not offensive. Not mean. Not hurtful. If you mean generous, say generous. If you mean funny, say funny. If you simply mean non-offensive, then re-consider whether you’re saying anything at all. Or more importantly, can we even really like something without qualities?
Why does this have my hackles up today? Many reasons, but chief among them is life itself.
When listening, I often hear people speak aloud goals or ideas that sound to me like a tabulation of nots.
I want a good career. [Translation: I don’t want to work at McDonald’s]
I’m looking for a guy I can trust. [I don’t want to be cheated on again]
Be a good neighbor. [Don’t upset anyone around you]
So, from my all-knowing, all-seeing chair, I’m listening for the goal, the dream, the boon, the carrot. Carrots provide direction, they help make decisions, they infuse motivation. If there are no carrots (sexy, challenging boyfriends or CEOs) then there’s just trying to avoid the stick.
And there are always sticks.
I’m not a big self-help/cult of personality guy, but their collective advice usually boils down to this: setting out to avoid sticks is the single best strategy to find more sticks. Of course, the path to carrots is lined with sticks too, but at least there’s a possibility of a meal…