This month is a time for new beginnings. Fall is in the air, the new school year is underway and Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, was celebrated a few weeks ago. So why not make a resolution or two? Why wait till January?
I was thinking about this and recalled a whole book of resolutions that we published six years ago, Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution. These were resolutions that could be made all year, not just during a fit of remorse after a month of holiday excess. Some changes are difficult and take time to implement, such as quitting smoking, losing weight or organizing the closets. But many of these are resolutions you can start implementing in a second, simply by deciding that you will. It's amazing how many positive changes we can make in our lives merely by deciding to change. And one of those decisions can be what we say or don't say.
One of the resolution stories that has stuck with me was by Linda O'Connell, who made me think about the negative power of the word "but." She wrote, "I've been listening to myself lately, and I don't like the way I sound. As a veteran teacher, I know that praise can be a huge motivational tool." Linda went on to admit, "My daughter called to tell me about a house she was interested in. I listened to her. I said, 'Honey, I am glad that you've found something you like, but don't you think, with the gas prices, you might want to buy closer to your work?'" The moment Linda said the word "but" she could hear her daughter's excitement falter.
Linda gave us another example: "Recently I visited my son and his 6-year-old little boy and 6-month-old daughter. I told him he was a great father. He beamed, and then I flubbed. 'You should be commended for spending your whole day taking your little boy to his sports events, but don't you think he might be worn out and ready for a bath?' There I was with my bad word again!" Linda's son stopped smiling and said tersely, "He'll be fine. I'll get him to bed soon." By accident, Linda had turned a compliment into a complaint.
The British author Dorothy Nevill said it best: "The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment." I'm working on it.
Read Linda's story, "Two Little Words with a Big Impact" from Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution.
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