My niece was born a few weeks ago. She weighed in at a whopping four pounds, 15 ounces. She stretched her little arms and legs, her eyes tried to focus and then a slight tremble rose on her tiny pink lips. The lights, sounds and actions of this new world had snatched her from her snug, warm and comfortable world of darkness, six weeks too soon. With the stress from the noise and lights building, she let out a small whimper, recoiled and released a loud cry that cleared her lungs.
The neo-natal nurse, cleaned then wrapped our niece tightly in a warmed blanket, thus moving her tiny body with a slight jolt and she recoiled again and repeated the cry with more fervor.
I thought to myself, “She is so small, so tiny, I hope she is not too little.” I caught myself thinking negatively and started looking for the positive. I repositioned myself and then said aloud, “Listen to that strong set of lungs.” Tears came to our eyes knowing that her lungs were working wonderfully for a baby born so early. Just those simple words, “Listen to that strong set of lungs,” made the difference in how I saw our new baby. To the family the stress of having a preemie baby was transformed into pure joy. That cry meant a miracle of a healthy set of lungs and our fear was replaced with joy simply by how it was stated. The stress of the event disappeared and was replaced with pure joy and celebration.
Is Stress Bad?
One popular misconception about stress is: “It’s always bad.” In reality, stress is neither good nor bad. What is bad about stress? It is clearly how we choose to spin it or react to it. One of the fastest growing worker’s compensation issues are claims of stress, including health problems. We need to face the fact that limiting stressors for employees and co-workers is good business, but stressors will always be a factor in work and emergency response situations. Rapid-turnover, newly-down sized operations and doing more with less is now a way of life. Workers become nervous and agitated with constantly changing environments that contribute to increased stress.
Cynicism, decreased productivity and lack of control during changing environments create a work setting that is difficult and sometimes overwhelming. It is imperative leadership and all employees look for, manage and mitigate stress when identified. The most effective way of mitigating stress is prevention. Prevention is easily found in choosing our words intentionally, purposefully and carefully.
Meaning Making Machines
We are all meaning making machines. People think rapid turn-over an the office means they are next in line to lose their job. We make an argument with our spouse mean we are headed for divorce. As rescuers we make incredibly difficult emergencies mean we can’t take any more of this job. As internal or personal stressors evolve, it is important to consider that whatever we choose to give importance grows. So, it is important to understand how we process what is happening around us.
In order to process what is happening around us, we usually turn to self-talk. Not the kind of self-talk that says we are crazy. Self-talk is what makes us normal, human and alive. Personally, I felt a lot better once I heard that humans have approximately 60,000 conversations a day with none other than themselves. Anyone who says, “That’s not true. I don’t do that! I don’t talk to myself,” just had one of those conversations.
Science shows that it is how we talk to ourselves that increases the pressure and stress from events. How employees self-talk is in direct correlation to how they are talked to by those in au-thority.
Leadership can be effective in controlling out of control situations with simple words. Usually the quieter employees are internalizing what is happening and need more positive feedback. Easily spoken positive words like: (1) thank you, (2) good job, (3) you are valued, and (4) I appreciate your attitude and effort, are all miracle words to those who may be oppressed with some internal story.
One thing I like to repeat during difficult times is something my pastor told the congregation. “The first ingredient of a miracle is an impossible situation.” I like to add to it, “We are well on our way to a miracle.” If you think about these words for a moment, they transform. This statement not only opens our minds to new possibilities, it sets our faith into action and creates hope for a new and different future and outcome. Transforming statements motivate others to think outside the box. What is amazing about this is speaking these words positively affect those of us saying them.
Seeing how team members react to the difficult is key to how they self talk. Talking to them in the positive, or reframing an issue can reduce stress and increase effectiveness in one quick swoop. Transformational words have a double whammy effect.
Positive talk brings with it many benefits starting with personal satisfaction, contentment and a feeling of control. If their attitude is not right, positive talk helps transform those thoughts too. So how do we help our response team? What is the key to the business sense of miracle words?
“The first ingredient of a miracle is an impossible situation.
We are well on our way to a miracle.”
Making Miracles Out Of Words
If you study how miracles are made, they are created with words. We can look to several examples of this. A mother says to her child, “You are important and I love you.” Just those words can make the difference in a child’s life. The lifelong effects are profound and have a ripple effect in that child’s ability to be loving and related for life. At Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. It’s amazing that Christ created all his miracles with words and he gave us the same ability. Our words are powerful. An employer says to an employee, “You are a valuable and I am thrill to have you as a part of the team.” All these little sayings may seem simple, effortless and straightforward, but what is important to realize our words create our world.
Our self-talk (our words and thoughts) create too. We can’t always fix or transform every issue, but we can value one another and show an uncanny love with our words. We can look past all the negative issues and focus on the positive. Positive words are delivered more appropriately in a trickle-down effect method, a little here and a little there, delivered quietly behind the scene and on occasion in front of others. Grand and public displays of appreciation are often inauthentic and wasted. What is most important is that we choose our words carefully, lovingly and thoughtfully and with timing.
It takes real leadership to speak the positive in the face of a difficult situation. It takes focus to block the negative and redirect oneself in speaking positive.
If you want to be an inspiring leader, one who creates miracles for others, start by speaking the positive in place of the negative. Speak words that create hope, opportunities and options. As response team leaders, supervisors and leaders, how we manage stress via words transforms balls of frustration and high blood pressures into well-oiled machines that function at high levels.
We all have an internal struggle. This struggle is easily shown in the following story told by a Sioux Indian Chief about two wolves.
One winter’s evening while gathered round a blazing camp fire, an old Sioux Indian chief told his grandson about the inner struggle that goes on inside people.
“You see” said the old man, “this inner struggle is like two wolves fighting each other. One is evil, full of anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, deceit, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
“The other one,” he continued, poking the fire with a stick so that the fire crackled, sending the flames clawing at the night sky, “is good, full of joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith”.
For a few minutes his grandson pondered his grandfather’s words and then asked, “So which wolf wins, grandfather?”
“Well”, said the wise old chief, his lined face breaking into a wry smile, “The one you feed!”
Miracle words and thoughts are good for all of us, no matter what your role is. Begin to use them and watch transformation begin to change every area of your life and work.