I want all people to have adequate health care, but I never say “people have a right to health care”. I know that stating it this way will make it less likely to happen. Instead I say “I have a responsibility to help ensure that people have adequate health care”. Stating it this way makes it much more likely to come about. The former statement makes people feel weak and vulnerable whereas the latter conveys a feeling of strength.
Dissecting the Words
Saying that people have a right to something reflects a feeling of entitlement, which comes from a position of weakness. It’s indicative of a belief that someone else needs to give us something or otherwise we won’t have it. When we believe we have no power and are dependent on someone else for our well being, that’s what we will experience. We’ll operate as though we have no power and then end up being dependent on someone else for our well being. It’s not to our benefit to proliferate a belief in entitlement.
I think it’s this inherent projection of weakness that turns many people off of national health care and many other social benefits. I’d venture to say that most people care about the well being of others, but none of us wants a society of disempowered people.
In contrast, saying that we have a responsibility to provide something reflects a feeling of empowerment. It says that we hold the keys and can provide it. Now, you may be thinking that you don’t have the ability to provide health care for others, and therefore you can’t have the responsibility. I say we do have the power. The entity that we call the government and think of as having the power is simply a representation of us. There is nothing out there external from us that has more power than we do.
This is just one example of how our language is a window into our beliefs. It’s important because a nation’s (or a business’) belief system is the most foundational element that determines its experience of success. All emotions, ideas and actions arise from its beliefs. The words we hear and speak program our beliefs.
If we want societies that thrive, there are certain beliefs that must be reflected in our language. The operative beliefs are those pertaining to physical security, such as whether we’re worthy of having money, good health, and protection from harm, as well as whether these things are abundant in the world. Also important is whether we’re confident in our abilities to actualize these things. When we use empowering language in reference to these beliefs, we set the stage for positive social change.
To gain more clarity about the impact of particular words, test the power of them in your body. Compare how your body feels when you say the words “we have a right to health care” vs. when you say “we have a responsibility to provide health care”. For me, when I say the former, I feel negative and get a burning sensation in the pit of my stomach. When I say the latter, I feel a warm tingling in my chest and throat. That indicates to me that the latter phrase has more coherence, leading to better outcomes.
As we learn more from neuroscience about the incredible power of group emotions, we see reasons to adopt techniques beyond the ordinary. For more on shaping team emotions to increase creativity and performance, including research references, get notified of the upcoming book Primal Teams: Harnessing the Incredible Power of Group Energy or sign up for a monthly summary of articles.Share