Are You Using Training Wheel Words?


This biker probably stopped using training wheels when she was a kid.

Training Wheels Are Great

Every kid loves them because they allow you to start biking earlier. Even before you can balance on a bicycle, you can pedal around on a bike with training wheels.

But eventually, the training wheels have to come off because they eventually become an hindrance to riding. And once you learn to balance on your own, they are not needed anyway.

The Same is True with Speech

There are many training wheels in speech. Especially when trying to master the subtle art of communication, which requires a balance between being kind to the other person and being true to yourself.

For example, one set of training wheels comes up when giving feedback. People tend to take feedback personally, so they may be hesitant to give direct feedback because they don’t want to hurt the other person.

You can use training wheel phrases like, “What works for me…” and “What doesn’t work for me…” This is a wonderful start to giving feedback. It makes it clear that the feedback is not personal, allowing you to speak the truth without hurting the other person’s feelings.

But Training Wheels Can Only Take you So Far

After a while, “What doesn’t work for me…” can become cliché. And speech can get locked into just this one way of giving feedback. The naturalness of communication is lost when this happens.

The purpose of the training wheel phrase is to make it clear that the feedback I’m giving is not personal. I’m clear, and I stay out of the other person’s business. This allows me to communicate what needs to be communicated without worrying if they are taking it personally. It frees me to speak more directly.

But the phrase, “What doesn’t work for me…” is only a facsimile. It accomplishes in speech what really has to happen inside. No phrase alone can free me. It requires some deeper work to truly be free.

And Deeper Work Can Look like This

Instead of worrying about which turn of phrase I use, I start to notice my stressful thoughts when wanting to give feedback:

They are not going to like it.
They are going to take it personally.
I need them to receive my feedback well.
It’s mean to say that.
I should be gentle with them.
I need them to change.
They can’t handle the truth.
They won’t like me.
They’re not open to it.
They’ll hold it against me.

These are some of the underlying beliefs that can stop me from sharing helpful feedback. If I question some of these beliefs, when dealing with a particular situation, by using the four questions and turnarounds of The Work, I can end up freeing myself on the inside.

Then it doesn’t matter if I use the phrase, “It doesn’t work for me…” or not. I will be maintaining the clarity (not to be in their business) and the kindness (non-judgmental attitude) even if I phrase the feedback in ways that are less politically correct.

That Is True Freedom

Then I can say, “You should…,” or “I want you to…,” or “I don’t like…,” or “Please, do this.” You can use any phrase you like. When you’re clear on the inside that how they take it is their business, and that your intention is not to hurt them, and that you don’t think less of them in any way, then you are free to talk naturally.

The training wheels are no longer necessary.

Have a great week,

“You’ll discover that asking is much easier when it’s free of hidden agendas. And when he realizes that whatever he answers is fine with you, an amazing intimacy can open for you both.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

If you like this article, feel free to forward the link to friends, family or colleagues. Or share the link on Facebook or other social media. If you have thoughts you’d like to share about it, please leave your comments below.

Get two new articles about The Work of Byron Katie every week. Subscribe to the newsletter here.