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Embracing Positivity (Or How Not To Be Negative)

Language is a powerful tool. And while vocal tone is necessary to help convey the message, so too is the use of positivity or negativity within phrasing. Often, with the hustle and bustle of the day, quick, blunt directions may unfortunately sway the overall intent of a statement.

It’s very possible that you know someone who often responds with the phrase: Yes, but…! And I bet you know someone who has difficulty speaking without using the words: can’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t, and/or don’t.  It’s funny how those negative terms can completely change a sentiment or conversation, or even an overall impression of a person.

unnamed-4I saw a banner a few days ago that read “You can’t change your life if you don’t change your thinking.” When I first read the banner, I misinterpreted it to be: “You can’t change your life. Don’t change your thinking.”  Clearly, this was incorrect on my part. That said, the consistent use of a negative-sounding term altered the statement completely for me. A potentially positive phrase became overpowered, and ultimately less inspiring.  Had the banner read “You can change your life if you change your thinking” I would have had no question about the statement, and it’s intended purpose.

Using negative words may at times lose the purpose of a phrase, or misconstrue an ideal. For example, consider the tone difference between these phrases:

  • Don’t drop that dog! (Negative)
  • Put the dog on the ground. (Positive)

When working with clients, or with my staff, it’s imperative to understand the sort of message I wish to convey.  Being a leader for my team, or a client liaison, requires grace and active support.  Hearing terms like can’t, no, don’t, won’t, shan’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t, would not, should not, etc, only weighs down a conversation.  Who doesn’t recoil a bit when they hear “no”?

And it’s not just an emotional reaction either. By changing the approach to a statement, and removing the direct “no,” there’s an opportunity for either clarity for and a positive interaction.  For example:

Hi, can you meet today to speak about the project?

  • Negative confirmation: Sorry, no, I can’t be available for you today.
  • Affirmative alteration: My availability is much better tomorrow, do you have an hour open then?

unnamed-5While transparency and being direct are important, it’s also necessary to convey opportunity and support – the feeling that I’m here for you, and let’s work together.

Listen to your own speech, and to the speech of others around you. You might be surprised at how much inadvertent negativity is in casual speech, and how rearranging a statement towards the positive can inspire cooperation, empowerment, and pleasant experiences.

Click here to learn more about positive language. And have a great day!

Yvonne Z.
Project Manager

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Talk Back

Abdu Samad
Posted on May 2, 2015

Nice & wise post Yvonne !

Matea
Posted on May 1, 2015

This is a great post, Yvonne! Not just in work environment, but even in everyday conversations, and we are so quick to forget that. Thanks for the reminder!

Amy
Posted on May 1, 2015

This is fantastic advise on how to rephrase things. I love it.

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