Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spread the Words

Starbucks recently introduced a campaign that they hoped would stimulate dialogue about race relations. Its baristas were instructed to write “Race Together” on their customers’ coffee cups. After just one week, the company pulled the plug on the campaign, but they claim it wasn’t because of the negative backlash on social media. Perhaps it was just taking too long to write that message neatly while the customer was twitching in line, waiting for his caffeine fix.

Whatever the reason, it got me thinking about the power of words. Each January, I along with dozens of others put out a list of banned words for the upcoming year. These are always negative words and phrases, ones that are like fingernails scratching on chalkboard. It dawned on me that this is a glass-half-empty approach. What we really need is a glass-half-full list of words that we urge others to use. In the interest of promoting positive thinking (and speaking), here are my suggestions.

My first grouping features words that support people’s efforts to become the best possible versions of themselves. Let’s talk about empowerment, encouragement and potential. I especially love the copy line my husband came up with for his store SPECTRUM-India. He’s taken the glass-half-full concept further and tells his customers they are “an overflowing glass of phenomenal potential.” He even has T-shirts with that message on them.

We should use language that helps folks tap into their potential. Don’t put up roadblocks and scatter disincentives. Instead, promote creativity, inspiration, and imagination.

In the spirit of Race Together, we should also fill our conversations about how to achieve personal goals with concepts like collaboration, togetherness, compassion and harmony. I prefer those to the commonly used teamwork. That sounds more like the mechanics of achievement and less like the relationship part of getting there.

I also love words that suggest that we should be happy with what we have achieved in life. This of course assumes that we have first made an honest effort to be the best that we can. Let’s hear it for contentment, serenity, fulfillment and abundance. (But please, not an abundance of caution! I banned that phrase for 2015.) Along those lines, let’s also be thankful for what we have and make regular use of appreciation and gratitude.

I’m attracted to terms that may sound a bit New Age to some of you, but that put me in mind of a highly positive approach to living. Holistic and organic are two of these (and I’m not thinking about food here). These words have me considering all aspects of my life, about how to keep them in harmony, and about being open to change and growth even when it might not have been on my radar.

The Chinese (or Buddhist) philosophical concept of The Tao translates to The Way. I’d like us to practice thinking and talking about ways to be. Let’s be generous and full of kindness toward others. Let’s be full of promise and wonderment for ourselves. Be proud of what we’ve accomplished and give praise to others for their achievements. Look at the glass as half full, on its way to overflowing.

Wouldn’t it be great if we all made a conscious effort to spread positive words and thoughts like these? All that good karma wafting throughout our universe! Sing along now: “What a wonderful world it would be.” (Thank you, Satchmo.)

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