What Signals Are You Sending?

You’ll no doubt have heard of the Ripple Effect, where one event produces effects which spread and in turn produce further effects – like ripples from a pebble being dropped into water.  Somewhat analogous to the pebble, your words send Signals to others, and those Signals can be heavily amplified by the other person’s reflections – often leading to a Lightbulb (a significant realisation), and then to a Gamechanger or Lifechanger (a significant practical outworking from that realisation).

 One really significant example of this for me (Jess) was the Ripple Effect of a famous musician telling me that my voice sounded like a ‘broken car engine’ – a definite dream-breaking comment that for a while was a significant Gamechanger for me. While he had no bad intent, he had also not taken the time to think about the impact of his throw-away comment.

So important questions you can ask yourself are:

“Do the Signals I send out predominantly generate positive Lightbulbs for others or negative ones? And are they more likely then to generate positive Gamechangers and Lifechangers or negative ones?”

What you do know is that the impact of your words will from time to time be enormous, so it’s best having them as a force for positive spirals, although we can’t always monitor this or give the perfect response.

Sometimes subtle differences in words can produce totally opposite or unintended outcomes. Too much concern about such negative outcomes could cause you to get so cautious or deliberate about the words you choose, or so reticent to comment, forcing you to lose your spontaneity or your potential to contribute. That won’t take you anywhere positive, nor anyone else.

But you can keep in mind the sorts of words/Signals which can have positive or negative Gamechanger or Lifechanger effects on others. Let’s look at a few examples of the potentially lifechanging impacts on:

…. someone’s self-belief

  • Dreammaker –big boss says to young person in their first job – “Keep up the great work. I can see you’re capable of special things.”
  • Dreambreaker - critic says to aspiring artist or musician – “You should try something different. There’s nothing original in your work.”

 …. someone’s attitude to effort, learning and growth

  • Teacher fostering fixed mindset – “Well done Johnny. You’re really smart.”
  • Teacher fostering growth mindset – “Well done Trish. I can see your effort reflected in the final result.”
  • Parent fostering perfectionist mindset – “Well done Tony. 98% is not bad but where did you lose the 2 marks?”

 …… someone’s self-esteem

  • Demeaning generalization regarding the person – “Billy. You’re a bully, you selfish little s*!t.”
  • Objective feedback re an action or performance – “I thought what you did to Pamela at the party today was selfish and bullying. If you feel the same about it, is there something you can do to make it up to her?”

 ……. someone’s resilience

  • Supportive feedback to partner in context of a disappointment “Your charity work’s so important. It was a disappointing result at the fund-raiser. What are you considering to get a better outcome next time? Could I be more helpful next time?”
  • Demeaning feedback in context of a disappointment “That was a disappointing result at the fundraiser. I don’t know why you bother with that stuff.”

If a person’s words send negative Signals and lead to negative Lightbulbs on a couple of occasions, it’s likely that their words will do so in many contexts and on many occasions.

So, to the extent you can, observe and be sensitive to the impact your words have on others, especially if you are in a position of relative power and influence ……and be sensitive to the mindsets that lead to those words.

"Watching your thoughts. They become words. Watching your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Positive outcomes tend to come from positive mindsets – from optimism rather than pessimism, from a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset, from a constructive mindset rather than a destructive one, from win/win rather than win/lose and from a calm and self-aware mind, rather than a rushed and stressed one.

So what? Take some time to answer these questions and please feel free to share any of your answers or thoughts below or on our Twitter #fourlensesforlife

  • Can you think of one Signal that you sent someone today that could have impacted his or her life? (Did you encourage someone? Did you ask if someone needed help? Did you laugh at someone? Did you lose patience and snap at somebody? Did you give someone the silent treatment?)

  • What mindset or situation (good or bad) led to that Signal? (Were you rushed? Unprepared? Relaxed? Present? Distracted? Burnt out?)

  • Can this example help you change a Signal for the better tomorrow? (Be more prepared? Sleep more tonight? Take a few deep breaths before you respond? Ask tomorrow if he is ok?)