One of the things I read as a young teacher which stuck with me was, be careful of your use of the verb "to be" when reprimanding a student. If a student lied to you, don't say, "You are a liar." Say something more like, "You told a lie." If a student cheated, don't say, "You are a cheater." Say something more like, "You cheated on that last test." If a student regularly disrupts class, don't say, "You are nothing but a troublemaker." Say, "I won't let you continue to disrupt class," or, "If you keep causing trouble in here, I will . . ."
The reason is, the statement "You are . . ." is very powerful. It is a statement of being, referring to your essential nature (I just checked to see where the word "essential" comes from. It's from the Latin "esse," "to be.") So if I say to a student, "You are a liar," I'm saying that lying is an essential part who that student is. If, on the other hand, I call a statement a lie, I'm dealing with one specific statement at one moment in that student's life, which means the student has the opportunity to stop lying by making a change in behavior, which is far easier than changing his or her essential nature.
It's probable that the other side of the "to be" coin is true as well: if you can get someone to identify with a positive trait by saying, "I am a . . .," you can increase the chance of that person acting on it.
I read a short piece recently that said people are more likely to vote if they consider themselves "voters," as in, "I am a voter," than if they say, "I vote." It cited a study indicating that people who accept the label of "voter" are more likely to cast their ballots than people who simply say they vote. It makes sense to me. If you think of yourself as a "bowler"—"Yeah, I'm a bowler"—you're more likely to hit the lanes than if you say, "Yeah, I bowl now and then." Bowling is part of something you are,
not just something you choose to do when the mood strikes, when you have some spare time.
Bowlers bowl. Voters vote.
So I say, let's all be voters, people who act on that essential part of our being whenever the opportunity arises, which happens to be between now and Nov. 8—or a few days earlier if you mail in your ballot.