Acceptance or Resignation? The Power of Language and the Language of the Powerful
In a new series of blogs, we are going to be exploring one of the most powerful tools of communication we have at our disposal, internally & externally: Language.
Semantics can be really frustrating, right? I can't be the only one to get drawn into conversations of meaning only to find myself lost in a rabbit hole of philosophical paradox. The English language has got so many words, it's inevitable that many are going to share a meaning. Why bother getting lost in specifics when you just want to get a message across?
Actually, loathed as I am to admit it sometimes, getting lost in the specifics can do a lot of good. Words are living things; they have personality, agenda, points of view. They can imply and insinuate without you consciously realising, which is why it can be really important to make sure you understand and mean the words you use.
Perhaps the best illustration of this I have experienced was whilst facilitating a small group of learners. We were discussing the power of acceptance, when a member of the group challenged us. “I know what acceptance is, I accept the circumstances of my life, but that's not empowering, so I don't agree with the point”. When asked to describe what they meant, they said “I know the playing field, it's rubbish, and it's hard work and I know it's always going to be a bit rubbish and a lot of hard work, that's the truth. That's not an empowering thing to know”.
At this point, the wise and skilled facilitator running the session made a point that silenced the entire room in deep contemplation: “What you're describing there is not acceptance, it's resignation. You are resigned to everything being rubbish, which means you feel powerless to make it any less rubbish. Acceptance is about understanding the rubbishness so that you can figure out the parts of it you can change. If you're resigned, you rob yourself of the power to change things because you believe things cannot be changed. If you're accepting, you are taking a moment to figure out what needs to be changed and how, which gives you the power we're talking about”. I can't speak for the rest of the group, but I know that that moment has lived with me since as a useful reminder to ask myself what I really mean from time to time.
I'll leave the last word on the power of acceptance to a gentleman who knows a thing or two about success and failure. Sir Lewis Hamilton has achieved unparalleled professional success over the last decade, but at the moment he finds himself in a position where success is hard to come by. How does he manage the situation? As he told Sky Sports News recently: “Initially it's frustrating... You want to be in that fight. But when you're struggling to even get into the top ten, the sooner you can accept the reality which you're faced with, the sooner you can move that energy and that strain onto a positive effort”.