I had never heard this phrase before, until I read Thirteen Guitars by Eric Sink. It’s such an evocative, visual phrase – expect me to use it somewhere near you very soon.
How do you introduce yourself? by Pam Slim is all about walking the talk – modifying our language to reflect our ambitions instead of our fears. I suppose this is related to NLP, and I can vouch for the fact that it does make a difference when I can present myself in terms of where I want to be, rather than where I fear I’ll end up.
That said, the reason I’m writing this is because of an almost throw-away line towards the end of Pam’s piece:
“A Buddhist friend once told me that the words that you say form a force field of attraction around you.”
This strikes me as true in so many ways. The actual choice of words we use matters so much, and reveals so much about our preferences, beliefs, prejudices, fears and so on. And the congruence – or lack of it – between those words and our actions is often a great barometer of our authenticity.
A few times in my career I’ve been asked by colleagues how it is that organisations have tended to adopt values or approaches I hold dear. I answered that I just talk about stuff sufficiently often that it becomes part of the meme soup of my working locality. That’s the attraction field, and I think it only forms when the congruence is there too. There have also been a few occasions when the force field hasn’t materialised, and in each case I was trying to force something without being it. As Ghandi said:
“Be the change you wish to see”
(Thanks to Nynke Fokma for reminding me of that quotation, and to the force field that brought both of these statements into my browser today.)
If there’s one verbal tic that’s guaranteed to raise my hackles, its “not a problem”. Yesterday, outside of the family, I spoke to only two people: both of them used the phrase – and one of them used it six times in five minutes.
What’s wrong with being positive? Where did “yes, I can do that” disappear to? Why must we have this meaningless double negative instead?
I’m easily confused, and all too often I construe the wrong meaning from something completely innocuous. The UI for Google’s new online aggregator (thanks Clarke for the link) is a case in point. I was trying out this new (to me) service today and I kept getting lost. Because there’s a menu-link labelled read items. It took the “read” part to mean “peruse”, and to be an imperative participle of the verb “to read”. Later I realised it could mean “consumed” – it could be the past participle of the same verb, being used as an adjective to identify those items I’ve already …er… read. The link might take me to a reader, or to an archive. I’m still not sure which it does. Ho hum.
The collective noun for starlings is murmuration. I know this because about a week ago several hundred began feeding, nesting and courting in the bushes and trees adjoining our house. And murmuring is definitely not what they’re doing.
I hear managers talk about “software engineers”, meaning people who do “engineering” on software. And I don’t like it. In my mind the analogy between software creation and hard engineering is completely broken.
In the agile world, software develops. Dictionary.com defines the intransitive verb to develop as “to grow by degrees into a more advanced or mature state.” And the transitive verb to develop, which is what developers do, means “to bring into being gradually.” Just so.