Posted on January 10, 2014

In my consulting experience, I come across many instances when people in the meeting say “IF” so and so happens than…

And, I find this “IF” to be disempowering. It also does not point or direct us to think actively, proactively at what we will do.

“If” sounds so iffy. It gives me the feeling that the person speaking is not taking responsibility: “If it happens than we will see, who knows…”

Take a wall flower girl. She has no dates. She is lonely. And she might say “IF” someone asks me out than I will…”

“IF” did not built hope. It gave control to the outside world. To external forces, we have nothing to do just wait…”IF…”

Instead of using the word “IF”, I request my clients to use the word “when.”

“When I am asked out I will…”

Can you feel that this second sentence has hope in it, that it empowers…?

This is especially important for bureaucratic organizations when they discuss competition. “IF” competition increases its pressure than we should…” The word “IF “makes the probability of competition eating their breakfast less imminent. Now use the word “when”: “when competition increases its pressure we need to…” The word when is already one of the four imperatives of decision making. When you use the word “when “ you are already planning to do something… The word ”when“ feels much more threatening and thus the probability of the company getting off their seats and starting to do something is much more probable.

Words are not just words. They evoke maps in our consciousness and cause behavior. We have to be careful which words we chose and pay attention if they generate the behavior we want or not.

Sincerely,

Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes