Walls, ceilings, floors, mountains, rivers, hills, and oceans, among others, are things that define our reality, and therefore us. Our environments shape how we develop.

The words people use can also serve to define us. Words can be used to create virtual barriers.

Have you ever said one of the following to someone?

Don’t move.

Don’t watch.

Don’t talk.

Don’t deviate.

Don’t stray.

Don’t sit there.

Don’t go there.

Don’t talk to her.

Don’t listen to him.

If so, you are shaping the way a person perceives their environment. Over time, thinking or being spoken to in that manner is not positive and can have a detrimental effect on people and organizations. It can lead to people being disengaged because they will perceive a barrier that might as well be just as real as a wall that you can touch. Is that the goal?

Strive to break the cycle of negative thought patterns. Rather than looking for ways to shut people down, look for ways to build them up. Look for other options for people to express their thoughts and actions. Try to find ways for people to not be misunderstood. Help people get where they need to go.

That’s what leaders do.

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