1. Two Little Words with a Big Impact

1. Two Little Words with a Big Impact

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution

Two Little Words with a Big Impact

Too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold.
 ~Maurice Setter

I have always considered myself a positive thinker, an upbeat person and an optimist. I try to find the best in every situation. I’ve recently become aware of how two little words in my vocabulary have had a tremendous impact on people. I didn’t even realize it.

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. I realize the importance of developing a child’s self-esteem. I generously sprinkle uplifting comments around my classroom like I am fertilizing flowers. Each new school year brings a garden variety of students, and they all blossom with praise and encouragement. I know how to thank my grown kids, my grandkids and my husband for a job well done. I toss compliments to the unsuspecting if it appears someone needs a lift. I also yo-yo my positive comments right back when I use the word that makes my preschoolers giggle — BUT.

When one of my students attempted to print her name, I oohed and ahhed. “Wow! That is a great A, and your letter, D is nice and tall, but your letter, E should be short; can you erase it and try to make it shorter?” I asked. She wasn’t crushed by my comment. She tried to live up to my expectation. I thought I was helping, preparing her for kindergarten, showing her the difference in size between upper case and lower case letters. I don’t believe that my comment would have any long term affect on her self-worth. I imagine though, if I’d substituted the word BUT with the word AND, she’d have been proud of her accomplishment instead of questioning the “right way” to print her name. I wish I had said, “I like your nice tall letters, AND I like how hard you are trying to make your letter E.”

My recently divorced daughter called to tell me about a house she was interested in. I listened to her. I applauded her for moving forward with her life, and I said, “Honey, I am glad that you’ve found something you like, but.…” There, I did it again! “Don’t you think, with the gas prices, you might want to buy closer to your work?” As she told me all about the prospective house, I could hear the excitement and joy in her voice. The moment I spoke the word, BUT, it was as if I pricked a balloon with a needle. I could hear her slowly deflate. I sure wish I’d used the word AND. “Honey, I’m glad you found a house in your price range, AND I’m happy for you.” She knows I freely express my opinions, and I know she’s used to my mouth. I suspect that if I had leashed my tongue, her emotions wouldn’t have flip-flopped, and we’d have both hung up feeling better.

Recently I visited my son and his six-year-old little boy and six-month-old daughter. I scooped up my grandchildren and bragged. He babysits while my daughter-in-law works weekends. I told him he was a great father; I praised him for his devotion to his family. He beamed as though he was a little boy, 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! My son’s smile slid away, and he said, “He’ll be fine. I’ll get him to bed soon.” I planted an ounce of doubt, when I should have been planting the seeds of confidence. I wish I’d said, “You’re a good father, AND I admire your ability to recognize the children’s individual needs.”

My granddaughter showed up at my door dressed like a princess on her way to the prom. I told her how beautiful she looked. I told her I was proud of the young lady she has become, and I said, “Sweetheart, I want you to have a great time, but please don’t drink tonight.” I know she doesn’t engage in risky behavior; she’s responsible and sensible and trustworthy. She looked as though I’d snatched her crown. “Nana!” The tone of her voice indicated how I’d made her feel. How I wish I’d said, “I want you to have a great time, AND I trust you.”

My dear husband helps around the house; he did the dishes, emptied the dishwasher, and folded the laundry. I was thrilled he had lightened my work load. I thanked him. I told him how wonderful he is, and I used that naughty word again. “BUT, why did you leave crumbs all over the counter?” Why? Why? Why didn’t I say, “Thank you, AND I appreciate all you do around the house.”

I’ve been doing some self-reflecting. I’ve given up on losing those twenty pounds. I’ve decided a walk around the neighborhood is a good substitute for vigorous exercise. I’ve watched dust bunnies cuddle under the sofa. I’ve prayed in the dark instead of at church more often than not. In other words, all those New Year’s resolutions are now null and void. I lose a pound; I eat a chocolate; I gain a pound. The bar on my treadmill makes a nice rack for hanging laundry. I’ve attended church for grandchildren’s christenings, and I pass the sanctuary on my way to the church office. I vacuum on weekends. I figure if the dust bunnies don’t mind snuggling for another day, I don’t care either.

My house isn’t spotless, my thighs are heavy, my soul, like my face could use some uplifting, but I have decided that I simply cannot keep all those resolutions I made on January 1st. I’m ready for some spring cleaning. I’m tossing those old resolutions out and I am making one, just one, which I intend to keep. I am going to refrain from using the B word. I think I can do it, and I am going to give it my best. I know it will have a positive effect on others. BUT if I mess up, I will try again, and again, and again to remove that naughty little word from my vocabulary. I resolve to replace it with the word AND. This is a resolution I intend to keep!

~Linda O’Connell

More stories from our partners