A few weeks ago I read an article regarding an author’s take on the very best word in our language. According to that author that word is “sure.” He went on at great length, to explain just why “sure” is so lovely. “Sure” communicates a light and airy sense of agreement and a complete absence of attitude, conditional or begrudging consent, drama or ambiguity – “Sure, I’ll do it,” “Sure, I’ll be there.” Meaning, of course, “Yes, you can depend on me – no big deal.” “I’m there for you.” “Sure” creates and nurtures relationships grounded in cooperation and generosity. “Sure” is the antithesis of “No – you first”, or “No way.”
And since reading that article I’ve come to embrace and love the sound of “Sure.” And my increased usage of that word has helped me to nurture relationships and gain a better outlook on life.
Lately I have been trying to identify some of my least favorite words. Here are my three candidates:
1. “Perfect.” Usually used in the context of an unreasonable expectation that the user has come to believe that he or she is entitled to a “perfect” day – often used to describe one’s subjective fantasy of what one’s birthday or wedding should be. Insisting upon the attainment of a “perfect” anything is often the prescription for a very unhappy moment when “the perfect” fails to arrive. It has been said that the perfect is the enemy of the good – meaning – that through hard work and good luck we can hopefully achieve a good result – but rarely will it be perfect. Even during our best moments in life, the dog gets sick and soils the carpet, we have a flat tire at an importune moment, a relatively new suit gets torn, etc. Stuff happens. And stuff happens on a daily basis. We need to expect it. We don’t get “perfect”.
2. “Apology.” We hear constantly from our elected officials, from our business partners and from our family members – “I am insulted, I insist upon an apology.” Well, your hurt feelings may – or may not – be legitimate. Your relationships may need to be revisited and healed. But you ain’t getting an apology. And if you continue to insist upon “an apology,” you’re not providing space for your partner – your adversary, your business associates, or your family member – to work through his/her issues with you as well. And when both of you want “an apology” the process of reconciliation, healing and closure becomes more problematic. Forget the apology stuff. Grow up. Move on.
3. “Deserve.” I have seen a growing use of this word in advertisements for various products and services – as in -“You deserve the very best of ________” – you can fill in the blanks. Yes, sometimes people get “what they deserve” – which is often going to prison as an aftermath of their wrongful actions. But we rarely “deserve” good things. This leads me to a related topic – the need to keep our expectations of other folks reasonable and relatively low. Other people will rarely give us what we – using only our imperfect and subjective vantage points – believe we justly deserve. But if we continue to keep our expectations relatively low, maybe, just maybe, sometimes we will get more and better than we initially anticipated. And for that joyous, albeit infrequent occurrence, we should be grateful.
So what is your favorite word? What are your least favorite words? Think about it – not only is it fun to share our thoughts, but this exercise in and of itself may reveal some inner truths. And for that we should also be grateful.