Blog & Insight

Are you looking for answers or solutions - because your response may make the difference?

I want to explore the impact changing just one word can make with you.

Yes one word.

One word that has the potential to move us from stuck to unstuck, or from failing to succeeding, or out of control to knowing precisely what to do.

The word may change dependant on the circumstances, and will certainly differ between individuals, but trust me there will be a word.

It surprised me too when I discovered it. Author and speaker Caroline Myss says words have power - I just didn't realise she meant every word we use has power.

Post script - you'll find a LinkedIn live that I recorded in November 2023 that explores this further and perhaps brings it alive using the problems I was having with finding documents in my dropbox folders as a metaphor for what happens when we're searching our mind for something.

Before reading further it's certainly going to make more sense to you if you think of a situation you'd like more clarity on, something you're feeling stuck about, or where you're struggling to find a solution. You can then apply the insights shared below to that situation, and discover for yourself the efficacy or otherwise of the technique.

The word I'd like to highlight today is 'solution', because for one client using a different word instead of solution made the difference from them not knowing what to do to knowing what to do - seemingly in the blink of an eye.

A few weeks ago a coaching client used the word solution to describe a situation - ie they were struggling to find a solution to it.

Their body language, facial expression, tonality and general state were not resourceful as they spoke about finding a solution. They certainly couldn't think of what they should be doing to solve the problem they had.

Until that is, I used the word 'answers' in the context of 'needing to find some answers'.

Suddenly their body language changed, tonality became excited, and a whole set of potential solutions came tumbling out of their mouth! Even I was surprised at the speed of change in their outlook.

If you're struggling to find a solution therefore, or it's been eluding you for some time, you might want to change the words you're using to discover if an alternative word might get you back on track.

For example, instead of wanting to find a solution for a current situation, does using any of the following words help change your thinking and ability to find that solution more easily.

  • Answer - find an answer
  • Resolution - achieve resolution
  • Reaction - decide how to react
  • Explanation - explain the situation 
  • Perspective - change perspective
  • Opportunities or options - identify opportunities or options
  • Response - find an appropriate response  
  • Result - get the right result
  • Opportunity - identify the options

If you're applying this to a real life situation that you were feeling stuck about take time to consider each of these suggestions. It's certainly not about reading the list quickly, and then saying "Nope - that didn't work".

As you use each word in the context of your example notice what you notice - does the situation feel, look or sound different to you? or have more ideas come to mind? or do you just feel less stressed about it? 

What about changing solution to:  

  • Settlement - agree a settlement
  • Moving - get you moving again
  • Key - discover the key
  • Intention - intend to do x
  • Unstuck - get unstuck
  • Ideas - explore some ideas
  • Observation - observe what's going on 
  • Quick fix - find a quick fix
  • Tweak - understand what to tweak 

For someone else 'solution' might not be the word we need to change - perhaps it's more about ensuring we use the plural ie 'solutions'. At least we'd not then be looking for that one perfect action but looking instead for a list of potential opportunities.

Solutions however, might be the perfect word, and it's more about changing the verb applied to it:

  • Identifying solutions
  • Discovering solutions
  • Exploring solutions
  • Understanding the solutions
  • Observing the solutions
  • Finding the solutions  
  • Agreeing the solutions
  • Achieving a solution
  • Collecting solutions
  • Listing solutions
  • and so on

and an addition to think about added after the LinkedIn live and that's is the adjective helpful or a hindrance too?

ie notice if any of these make it easier or harder to know what action you need to take

  • different solutions
  • alternate soltuions
  • new solutions
  • inspiring solutions
  • exciting solutions
  • effective solutions
  • collaborative solutions
  • successful solutions
  • and so on

As ever, no right or wrong just what works best for you ie whatever, using the dropbox analogy, enables you best to search your mind, locate and retrieve for what you're looking for.

The key challenge in any moment is to:

  • Notice you're stuck,
  • Notice the words you're using to describe the stuck situation, or 
  • Notice the words you're using to describe the solution that's eluding you
  • Use a different word(s) to describe the challenge you're facing, or the outcome you want, or what you need to do to get there 
  • Notice what you notice 
  • As a result of the word change do you feel more or less stuck? 
  • What action can you now take? 

I know it sounds simplistic, and also weird (unless you're used to working with me already that is), but you only have to remember your reaction when someone last suggested you speak to someone you're still very angry with, or have fallen out with to realise how much power words do have.

In another coaching session a client was using the word 'demands' in the context of 'making demands on the supplier'. In order to shift the stalemate that had been reached, I invited them to think of an alternate word, a word that might change how they were relating to the situation. For example the word to use instead might be: request, suggestion, position, needs and wants, stance, analysis, or the one I thought sounded better at the time for that example was 'offer'.

I've recently had the same situation with the word problem. I invite people to think of a problem they can apply a tool to and they may response saying "I don't have a problem". Yet they might identify with the word: challenge, issue, situation, feeling unresourceful and so on.

If words really do have power how will you use them today? 

Do get in touch if you'd like to discuss a word audit to help your team become more mindful of the language they're using and the ability for it to help or hinder you achieving the results that you need.


© Alison Smith
VAT Registration: 224 5001 58
Registered in Scotland, Registration Number: SC457105
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