The difference two words can make. This article exposes you to a deceptively simple language pattern that is an example of a linguistic state change.
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The Magical Difference Between “This” and “That”
By Tom Hoobyar
Article Word Count 539, average reading time 2.1 minutes.
It’s easy to put a spin on someone’s thinking. Might even be your own. The trick is to know what you’re doing, so the spin increases a person’s flexibility and creativity.
And here’s a neat little shift that I’ve been thinking about this week.
Take problems, for instance. The same set of facts can appear very differently, depending on how you refer to them.
For instance, try this on:
Notice the difference in your feelings when you take a problem or a complaint from your life — say, a “three” on a scale of one to ten, one being almost nothing and ten being a major deal.
So now you have a small issue, right?
Okay. Now think of it as “This problem.” Doesn’t that make it close to you and important?
Now think of it as “That problem.” Doesn’t that move it a bit away from you, and perhaps even make it smaller?
Same thing applies to the plural versions; These, and Those.
“This is a major problem.”
“Oh, that. No, that used to be a major issue, but now it’s joined those other issues that we’ve almost solved.”
“These are the first things we need to solve.”
“Or maybe those things need to be kept in mind, but they needn’t be allowed to dominate our thinking.”
Moving a problem up to center stage with the words “This” and “These” enlarges them, doesn’t it?
But when you put them in their proper place by using “That” and “Those” they are a little further away, aren’t they?
And don’t you get a little better perspective when you can view things from a little distance?
I learned this from a hotel manager in Phoenix, years before I studied the magic of NLP. He instinctively was able to put our complaints into a “That” instead of “This” frame, and then proceeded to resolve them.
But the thing that stuck in my mind was how, as soon as he said, “Oh, that computer glitch”, I began to think that he was going to fix things up to my satisfaction — and he did.
And I think that my satisfaction was somehow pre-formed by his first words, moving the problem a little further away and making it seem smaller and less dangerous.
As I said, this is a quick meditation on This and That.
It’s a small point but an important one.
And maybe you’ll decide to try choosing these words carefully, when referring to those frictions and misunderstandings that are so common in all of our lives.
Of course we have things to puzzle out — that’s part of what life’s about. But it doesn’t have to be an ordeal, or even a big deal.
Sometimes the first step in resolving an issue is talking and thinking about it in a way that allows it to become a little smaller — so it doesn’t overwhelm us.
Because this life can be exciting enough without turning all those minor issues into major emergencies.
Try it next time you’re discussing something that needs to be sorted out. And see if, by changing “this problem” to “that issue,” it doesn’t get a little smaller and more manageable.
You might think of it as “mental hygiene,” gently detoxifying your life and the lives of those around you by turning the alarms down just a little. Try it and decide for yourself.
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Tom Hoobyar is a Master Practitioner and an Executive Coach. He’s the founder of the NLP Cafe, the longest running free NLP workshop in the US. Go here to find out more and get your invitation: www.tomhoobyar.com