Early in my career, I learned an invaluable lesson from my boss, Sally, on how words shape expectations and behavior.
She hated the word “problem.”
She would appear to be deaf when one of us approached her with the lament, “I have a problem.” Sally simply wouldn’t respond.
We learned that she would respond if we said, “I have an opportunity.” Over time, she taught us that while those two words were often interchangeable, the former leads to feels like anxiety, anger or angst, while the latter leads to feelings of anticipation, enthusiasm, and optimism.
Rarely do people like having problems.
Almost everyone, on the other hand, enjoys having opportunities. Solving problems is a chore. Exploring opportunities is rewarding, creative and fun.
Over time, I learned to say, “Sally, I have an opportunity (with a customer, for example).” I discovered that I felt better, had more interest and energy to resolve the issue, and even became more creative when approaching it.
Try it yourself.
Next time you’re about to say, “I have a problem with – ” try this instead: “I have an opportunity with – “
Yes, at first it might feel awkward like some psychobabble trick, but keep at it. Over time, You will train your mind to reframe issues from things that bring you down to things that are actually empowering.