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  • Writer's pictureJess Ponce III

Word Play: Winning in Times of Crisis

Self-dialogue is always important; in times of crisis it is critical.

What are you telling yourself right now? What are your internal musings as you confront new realities like working from home, reduced pay, or the shocking surprise of unemployment? While many of today’s circumstances are beyond your personal control, you choose how you define changes in your life.

For example:

  • “It’s a hardship.”

  • “It’s an opportunity.”

  • “It’s a confusing mess.”

All of these are likely true. But which helps you meet the challenges you are facing? Which remark buoys your spirits? Which remark causes you to feel defeated before you even begin?

Your go-to statement, the internal dialogue that anchors your master assessment about what is happening to you, defines the reality you live in.

Here are comments I am hearing from many professionals right now.

  • “I am scared by economic uncertainty.”

  • “I am overwhelmed by what’s happening.

These declarative statements describe a harsh reality. They are riddled in despair. But what if these individuals shifted their dialogue? What if they chose different words to focus on within themselves?

Words define and shape reality.

It’s important to pay attention to your internal dialogue in moments of crisis. Negativity can breed further despair. Take charge of the narrative. Play with words.

Here's how you do it.

  • Take words that express your anxious, overwhelmed feelings and list them in column 1. It’s important to acknowledge them. Be honest and real.

  • Find an alternate, more affirmative word for each of the words you already listed and put them side by side in column 2. These new words can be antonyms or express a similar idea in a more positive way.

Keep this list active and add to it periodically, because crisis and change will continue to be a part of our lives.

Now, once you have a sizeable list it’s time to practice word play with your internal dialogue.

  • Write a few thoughts you’re experiencing right now about this time of change and uncertainty.

  • Then, see if there are words in column 2, or new words you'd like to add to it, that can help you shift the way you might be experiencing this change.

For example, in the above quote try replacing the word “overwhelmed “ with another word like “excited,” “encouraged”, or “optimistic.” Then see how that works in the original thought:

  • “I am encouraged by what’s happening.

While you may not be entirely encouraged by the overall situation, you might be encouraged by certain parts of it. For example;

  • “I am encouraged by the opportunity to find work/life balance.

Here’s another example:

  • I feel so disconnected and helpless.

  • I value being connected to others. What can I do?

As you see from this example sometimes it’s not going to be a word for word exchange. The key is to examine self-dialogue. There’s so much to be mined from it. Do the words and phrases you say to yourself best serve you? If not, what can you change?

Instead of saying “I am going to be helpful,” like some superhero, I merely posed the question, “What can I do?” The question addresses the feeling of helplessness. It assumes that I can do something, that I have some sort of power in this situation, and that capability is a huge paradigm shift.

It’s also important to be realistic and authentic when you do wordplay. I am not advocating that you look at the world through rose-colored glasses or to be Pollyanna in your approach. Struggles are real.

There are extraordinary realities like health, finances, and stability that require your attention right now. How you navigate through these unfamiliar, unprecedented times starts with the way you communicate your thoughts and feelings – to yourself.


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