Three Reasons to Use Short, Simple Sentences

If you have a long train, you cannot turn around very easily.

Why I Use Short, Simple Sentences

When I do The Work of Byron Katie, the first job I have is to write down my stressful thoughts. Usually, they start out kind of jumbled and chaotic. After all, those thoughts are mixed with a lot of emotions, so it’s not always easy to focus.

But over the years of doing The Work, I have found that it’s well worth the effort to try and simplify my thoughts as I write them down. 

Here Are Three Reasons Why I Do This

One of the biggest challenges to writing simple sentences is trying to do too much at once. I want all of my issues to get dealt with right away. So I try to put everything down at once. 

When I do this, my mind is all over the place. Even within one sentence I’m trying to cram all the details in. This causes a loss of focus. I actually dilute what is bothering me with all the extra nuances. 

Reason 1 – It Helps Me Identify What Exactly is Bothering Me

The first reason why I use short, simple sentences is that it keeps my mind focused. When I’m focused, my mind can be like a laser beam. It forces me to really identify what thought is bothering me. When I am not focused, I put in a little bit of everything. I stay a bit more uncommitted and “safe” instead of diving into the real issue.

Look at the difference here between a long, complicated sentence and a short version of the same idea.

Complicated: “I want him to spend more time with me so that I can start coming out of this depression and we can become closer and have a more fulfilling relationship.”

Simple: “I want him to spend more time with me.” 

Notice how all the extra stuff in the complicated version dilutes the main issue (that I want him to spend more time with me). It’s like I’m afraid to just land on the one thing I want. I’m justifying why I want it, and I’m adding stuff. 

These are distractions from really identifying the main thing I want. When I am able to prune away the distractions, I’m left with the core of what is really bothering me. Then I can do The Work with focus. Ironically, when I do The Work this way, all the peripherals get dealt with too.

Reason 2 – It Helps Me to Answer the Questions

While many of us have become good at multitasking, there is a limit to how thin we can spread our attention. When I try do The Work on a complicated sentence, at best I’m giving partial treatment to each piece of my complicated sentence.

Complicated Sentence: “He should see how fun I can be and that I’m a little awkward asking for what I want.”

When I ask myself question 4, “Who would I be without this thought?” it’s a lot to hold. What do I mean? Who would I be without the “He should see how fun I can be” part? Or who would I be without the “He should see that I’m a little awkward asking for what I want” part? Or both? 

My mind goes back and forth between the two parts. And it gets hard to get a clear picture of who I would be without the thought because it’s not just one thought. So it is harder to answer the question. And the chances are greater that I will just skim through my work.

Reason 3 – It’s Difficult to Turn Around a Long Sentence

When I get to the turnarounds it gets even more difficult if my sentence is long or complicated. Which part am I turning around? Do I turn around both parts at once? Or just one part? Or I can get confused with the sheer length of it.

Sample Turnaround: “I should see how fun I can be and that I’m a little awkward asking for what I wants.” 

While this turnaround makes sense, it’s still not clear where to focus when finding examples. 

Chances are that when I look for three examples, I will only give one example for the first part of the sentence, “I should see how fun I can be” and one example for the other part, “I should see that I’m a little bit awkward asking for what I want.” And maybe a third example on one or the other. That’s an average of only 1.5 examples per part of the sentence. Each part only gets half treatment (1.5 examples instead of 3).

Don’t these two parts each deserve a deeper treatment? What if they were two separate sentences and they got worked completely separately? That’s how I like to do it.

Sentence 1: “He should see how fun I can be.”
Sentence 2: “He should see that I’m a little awkward asking for what I want.”

I can now turn around these short, simple sentences much more easily. Then I can go deeply into each turnaround, finding three or more examples for why each one is true.

There Is a Reason Why I Write Many Statements 

When I’m writing my stressful thoughts about a particular situation, I expect to write a list of stressful thoughts to question. I don’t expect to fit all of my stress into one sentence. When I try to cram it all into one sentence, then my sentences become complicated.

But when I let each sentence hold a piece of my overall stress from the situation, then I can keep them all short and simple. And I can work each piece one by one. In the end, doing it this way, I’m able to deal quite thoroughly with many facets of my thinking one at a time. 

That’s why I usually take a few weeks to work through one Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. I have written many short, simple sentences on my worksheet. Each one reveals just one tiny part of my stress. Together, they cover the whole issue. When I break the big problem into smaller parts and deal with each one, I find it to be much more effective.

But You Can Still Work Long Sentences

I’ve done it many times. Sometimes, I just like to respect my raw mind as it comes out of my head. And sometimes it’s kind of messy and complicated. Sometimes, I just trust that and don’t worry about making my sentences simple. 

The Work will still work. And I can still find turnarounds and examples. It may take a little more holding, but sometimes that’s just the way it has to be. 

So experiment with it. Try writing some short, simple sentences, and try writing some longer, more complicated ones. Do The Work on them and find out how they both work. When you become really skilled at The Work you can turn anything around, no matter how complicated.

And as you become more skilled at The Work, you’ll also be able to spot the simple core thought even when it is embedded in a complicated sentence.

I’m Happy to Support

If you want to do some experimenting with me, I’m happy to support you one-on-one. We can practice writing down your stressful thoughts about a situation together. And we can try questioning both simple and complicated thoughts. 

Check out my availability and book a session using my online scheduling calendars (you can usually find an open slot just a few days in advance, or occasionally even on the same day). Book a private session here.

Have a great week
Todd

“Simply pick a person or situation and write, using short, simple sentences. ” Byron Katie, Loving What Is.

Further reading: Making a Habit Sustainable

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