I don’t know how many people out there are Indiana Jones fans, but I am a fan of the franchise. Every once in a while I come back to them, I reminisce about the time I used to watch them with my dad. (Indy and Bond were the epitome of action back in the 80’s!)
During my recent nostalgic Indiana Jones marathon there was a scene that really jumped out at me – the speed boat scene in The Last Crusade. This is arguably my favourite Indiana Jones movie, as River Phoenix plays a young Indie and Sean Connery (a combo of Bond and Indy, I mean come on!) plays the father. But I digress…
Why is this scene so brilliant? Why do I bring it up here?
Because it so beautifully encapsulates why clear communication matters.
Setting the scene
Indie is fighting with a supposed villain on the back of the speed boat, the stereotypical beautiful leading lady is at the helm of the boat. They are approaching two larger tankers that are gradually coming together ahead, the gap between them closing rapidly. He screams “Don’t go between them!” She responds “Go between them? Are you crazy?” and she speeds between the two tankers about to collide with each other. A classic edge-of-your-seat action moment, where you know they will make it but still get drawn into the intensity. After they inevitably make it through them, Indie says “I said go around them”….
Aaaaaaah but he didn’t, did he.
Say what you want, not what you don’t want
Often when we are so busy thinking about and expressing what we want from life, work, and relationships, we define what we do want by expressing what we don’t want. Because of this, our communication is not clear. It is not focused on the positive action or ultimate goal we are looking for. We leave ourselves wide open to misunderstanding and misinterpretation.
When you say “I don’t want…” people will hear the topic, action, subject, and in all likelihood completely miss or forget the “don’t” that preceded the sentence. Especially in stressful or time sensitive moments…such as heading into a boat collision. In other words if instead of saying “don’t go between them!” where she only heard “go between them!” Indy had said “go around them” then she would have received clear communication, and likely done exactly that.
Test the theory
Next time you are ordering food in and deciding with your roommate, partner or colleague what you want to eat, say “I don’t want pizza.” They will hear “pizza” and either assume that is what you want, or have to clarify what you do want. Instead ask for what you do what “I want sushi”, now all they will hear is “sushi” and you’ll get what you wanted.
I try to adjust my language at work and at home to reflect what I do want and not what I don’t want. The communication becomes clearer, as does what I actually want to see as a result. The side-effect in thinking about and acting on this, is that I become more solution oriented, using language like “I can, I will, I prefer…” and not “I can’t, I won’t, I don’t…” It seems obvious but listen to people around you and you will hear that this negative word play is a common way of expressing ourselves.
What do you want?
If you know what you want, ask for that outcome, and follow up to ensure you are understood, then you will ensure you get exactly what you want. No more don’ts, only dos! Using positive language in every day life, is just one small step towards a more positive outlook. Communication matters, and clear communication can make a big difference.
If you don’y pay attention to your language, you may continue to end up with pizza when you wanted sushi. 😉