Choose Your Focus Because Your Eyes Control Your Tongue
Teams and organizations move in the direction of the words they use.
The most important thing I can say about your tongue is it’s a rudder.
7 powers of words:
- Words determine direction.
- Words invite resistance or open hearts.
- Words convince or deceive.
- Words cut or heal.
- Words inspire or discourage.
- Words make work difficult or enjoyable.
- Words elevate your status or steal your reputation.
Warning: Negative words are more powerful than positive words because bad is stronger than good.
One of my favorite chapters in, “Scaling Up Excellence,” by Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao is, “Bad is Stronger Thank Good: Clearing the Way for Excellence.”
Successful leaders eliminate the negative:
- Bad practices.
- Stifling processes.
- Nasty people.
- Destructive attitudes.
- Negative beliefs.
It’s not enough to accentuate the positive. You have to eliminate the negative.
Repeated complaining hard-wires the brain to do more complaining. The more negative you are, the more negative you become. (Travis Bradberry in Emotional Intelligence 2.0)
Complaining contaminates environments.
Eyes and tongues:
Choose your focus carefully because focus steers language. Walk around looking for mistakes and all you talk about is mistakes.
Your eyes control your tongue. You talk about what you look at.
Frankly, some leaders wouldn’t have anything to say if they weren’t complaining. If you constantly complain, do your team a favor and go away.
Choose your focus:
- Focus on solutions. When problems emerge, turn quickly to solution-finding.
- Focus on strengths. High performance comes from leveraging strengths not fixing weaknesses.
- Focus on the future. Remember the future is built today.
- Focus on gratitude.
- Focus on progress. Energy increases with forward movement, as long as you stop complaining that it’s not enough.
Choose your focus because your eyes control your tongue and your tongue controls direction.
What does positive leadership language look like?
What kind of direction is your language setting?
Glad you like it, Lynne. It made me chuckle.
Thank you for this post! I needed that this morning 🙂
I needed it too, Michael. 🙂
As I was reading this post, one of my employees approached my desk and before presenting her problem said “When am I going to have a normal day? These last two weeks have been nothing but problems every morning”. Thanks, in part, by reading your post I replied “Challenges build character and stamina. The more challenges you overcome, the more fortitude you gain to help you face new ones”. Her answer: “that sounds like something a mom would say”. I’m good with that!!
Thanks for a great story, Maggie. Frankly, there are times I DON’T want to see the positive side. I WANT to lay in the mud. Sometimes we all need a little kick in the pants.
Holy cow. So needed this today!
I’m with you! Thanks Karen.
I have seen a negative reaction when words used are taken seriously. The comment that could define the defensive reaction might be ‘you know what I mean/t’.
Words are important. Why? Because people listen. I would speculate that virtually 100% of the time leaders want you to listen. Problem surfaces when leaders get lazy or let emotion drive their message. Words they use either over exaggerate or under sell. When probed for clarity, because people listen, that defense reaction kicks in. “Don’t pick apart my words”. (I’d say…why not?) Leadership is damaged.
Be clear in what you say, take a moment to think before you speak if necessary, and do not neglect to edit yourself when needed. Don’t be a leader who wants people to listen to them and does not want the actual words to be taken seriously.
Thanks Will. There’s only one thing worse than having people not listen and that’s having them listen seriously. 🙂
There’s a huge responsibility on leaders to speak with the future in mind, to listen and speak words that others need to hear, rather than blurting out something we think we need to say.
Wow. All I can say, Will.
Another GREAT Leadership stimulation, “Your Eyes control Your Tongue”. A great positive thought tool. I ask Leaders to remember Your response “in words” also must be stroking the positive too. Any opportunity to exchange thoughts, ideas and words is an opportunity to build capacity in someone and within your business or organization.
Thanks Greg. Our conversations are opportunities to make things better. Or, sadly, sometimes suck the life out of people.
Awesome post. I forwarded it to co-workers, for whom I’m so thankful, because they innately understand the importance of words. To your point about bad words being stronger than good ones, I found this study (https://hbr.org/2013/03/the-ideal-praise-to-criticism) that noted the most effective teams have a ratio of 6 to 1 (positive to negative) comments in their daily interactions. That matches with the ‘common knowlege’ that it takes a lot more encouraging/loving statements to repair a relationship after just one mean-spirited/hurtful one. Thanks again!
Wow! That is a great article Tavieallan. I’ve vaccilated between 3 to 1 and 5 to 1. Now it’s 6 to 1. In any case, we need to work hard to focus our attention on things we can affirm. The negative stuff will find you.
By the way, there is some debate about the research on this. Even as the article indicates. But, the basic idea seems on the mark.
Excellent wake up call today.
“Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative”, we just need to practice what we preach.
The truth be told, once we clean out the negative, we have our influences that turn things “negative”, for whatever reason, “the rain turned to sleet” out goes the positive as we dread the ride home. With “we the people” its the same way, negative things happen that impact others, it changes the entire moment, we need to overcome that moment to put us in the right frame of mind with positive words as best we can.
So true, Tim. We’re just noticing how something goes from bad to worse. BTW, I hate the weather here these days. Ugh!! But, I’m glad I’m taking nourishment. 🙂
Yes, eyeballs are floating and the rudder is out of control captain!
Glad your nourishing the engine!
“Focus on strengths. High performance comes from leveraging strengths not fixing weaknesses.” All too often if we miss 3% on a test we spend 100% of our time focused on that 3% instead of spending 100% of our time accentuating the 97% we did right.
Right on Patrick. We all fixate on the stuff we get wrong. It’s not that we should ignore mistakes, it’s just that focusing on them is a too narrow. You nailed it.
I don’t believe Bad is stronger than Good. I believe they are (necessary) opposites in a spectrum that balance each other. I try to spend more of my time in the upper range toward the ideal of good, however, it’s not black and white from my perspective. Focus, yes, and refocus again and again!
Thanks Eileen. I wish you the best with your belief.
Given equal context, one bad word/experience will stick with you longer than one good experience.
Bad wins unless good intentionally intervenes. It’s the default setting of the universe.
Good requires work. Bad happens on it’s own.
Entropy says we are winding down into oblivion. That doesn’t me we should play dead. It just means that chaos doesn’t take work.
As time passes, your body isn’t getting stronger and healthier. It’s dying. Before long, it will rot in the ground.
Things in this world get worse when left to themselves. Only through our intervention do things get better.
If things improved on their own, we wouldn’t need leaders.
Your title makes for a GREAT quote! It took me quite a while to learn this, but once learned and practiced, life became so much more enjoyable and calmer. Thanks for the reminder.
Thanks Jim. It’s interesting that it takes time to learn that we can control some parts of life, rather than letting them control us. Best wishes
Your post is well-timed today, Dan. I recall a quote from a well-known figure (can’t recall who at the moment!) who said, “People may not remember what you do, but they’ll remember how you make them feel.” We cannot ignore the negative, but it is far more productive to focus on strengths and how we can support each other, actually listen to each other and process our thoughts before we put them into words. Your fine post reminds me of the lyrics from a blues song heard recently on the radio: “Your mind went on vacation but your tongue is working overtime.”
Thanks Williams…. For me, a post like this is almost always well timed. 🙂 (If you know what I mean.)
I think the quote is Maya Angelou. It’s so true.
Here’s to paying attention to our attention.
I am dealing with some challenging coworkers presently so this couldn’t have landed in my inbox at a better time Dan. Thank you for sharing this wisdom.
In Hinduism we use a Sanskrit expression Tathastu. Which means ‘so be it’
Our words contain power to come into existence.
Choosing words is almost akin to choosing destiny.
Dan, I’ve seen these words before, because I have them posted on my wall. Who is the author? I want to provide attribution.
Focus on solutions. When problems emerge, turn quickly to solution-finding.
Focus on strengths. High performance comes from leveraging strengths not fixing weaknesses.
Focus on the future. Remember the future is built today.
Focus on gratitude.
Focus on progress. Energy increases with forward movement, as long as you stop complaining that it’s not enough.
Hi Julie. I’m not sure which words you refer to. If there’s no attribution it’s either common vernacular or original with me.
I really like that line: ‘your eyes control your tongue.’ It’s akin to ‘think before you speak,’ but it offers more to analyze and take away from. ‘Think before you speak’ is general, it does not offer any other direction than to think. While thinking is a good thing, for some people they need a bit more to go off of, because there’s a lot of different ways to think about a situation or circumstance and not all of them are beneficial to the thinker or to the person they are going to speak to. By referring to the eyes, you are making it known that an individual, whether they are a leader or not, needs to look around at their environment and the people in it. Using your eyes means absorbing the world around you and communicating based off of what you see, what you know.
Furthermore, this phrase not only asks the individual to hold themselves accountable by observing their surroundings: the good, the bad, and the ugly, but also to make statements based off of what they see, not just what they think. This is a crucial differentiation, because as human beings we tend to speak in regard to what we perceive a situation to be, which is not always the actuality of the situation. This is especially true for leaders or bosses, who are separate from the people they manage. It is easy for perceptions to be distorted across those degrees of separation and can sufficiently hinder how a boss responds. As you mention in your post, some individuals only see the negatives, which is not an issue with vision, but with perception. But if they use their eyes to control their tongue, they know they need to put in the effort to comprehend any situation in their work environment based on the facts and not assumptions or biases.