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That Makes Me Mad

By Chick Moorman

"Students who show up to class without their materials make me mad."

"Talking to parents at Open House makes me nervous."

"It makes me furious to see teachers correcting papers during aninservice program."

Do you use language like the sentences above? If so, you are giving away your personal power by using unself-responsible language. "Makes me" is one of the most commonly used phrases in our culture and a prime example of unself-responsible language. This choice of language helps you believe that something or someone other than you is in control of your responses to life. Every time you use this phrase, you add to the erroneous belief that you are not responsible for your personal reactions to the people and events in your life.

Attributing happiness, unhappiness, or any other feeling to an external source diminishes your sense of personal power. No one can "make"you feel anything. It is simply not possible for someone to create an emotion in you. Emotions are your personal response to an outside act, and they are within your power to control. That control begins with the language you use to describe the situations and events in your life. Using language that continues the illusion that outside forces create your emotional reactions only serves to strengthen your belief that others can "makeyou."

"What's all the fuss?" you may be wondering. "Doesn't everyone know we control our own emotions? Isn't it clear that 'makes me' is only an idiom? No one takes such usage literally, do they?"

"Makes me" language is not only taken literally, it is also taken seriously. Educators who have attended my seminars often argue long and hard that someone can make them angry or sad. "My principal makes me nervous," "Students who don't do their homework irritate me," and "Parents who don't show up for conferences frustrate me" are just a few of the comments participants have offered. These participants are using language that flows from their beliefs. They believe principals can make them nervous, and they choose language that reflects that belief. They believe parents can frustrate them and they speak accordingly.

The beliefs people hold are reinforced by the language they choose. The more they hear themselves speak unself-responsibly, the stronger their beliefs become. The more people believe others can "make them,"the less personal power they experience, and the more controlled they are by outside events and other people.

Your students, too, are caught up in the "makes me" myth. "Math makes me sick," "Reading aloud makes me nervous," and "Mrs.Johnson makes me mad" are samples of unself-responsible student talk I have heard recently. This language style reinforces and strengthensthe beliefs students hold that outside forces can control their emotional reactions to life.

Many of your students use language that reveals they don't realize they control their own attitudes. They think someone else is responsible for their anger, jealousy, boredom, procrastination, irritation, frustration,anxiety, fear, or degree of effort. Until students who are choosing negative attitudes come to believe they alone are responsible for those attitudes,there is little hope they will change.

"Makes me" is much more than just an innocent phrase. It is the input you use to program beliefs into your marvelous biocomputer -your mind. Rid your language patterns of unself-responsible language.Talk instead of how you are choosing to feel, or simply report your feelings with an "I statement." "I am feeling depressed" is more self-responsible than "That depressed me." "I'm choosing irritation right now" is more empowering than "He irritates me." Drop "makes me" and its variations from your vocabulary and reclaim your personal power.