If you have 100 interactions with other people today, probably 95 of those interactions will be positive—or at least neutral. However, the world is a stressful place, none of us is perfect, and sometimes small things can turn a routine interaction volatile. Here are three simple word-choice changes you can make to help keep those interactions stable and on the right track.
Yes, You Can
The most obvious way to shift your language to a positive place is to use positive constructions. Everyone responds better to hearing You can instead of You can’t. We like to hear I/we will more than I/we won’t. We prefer do to don’t. The use of not often brings with it a sense of blame, restriction, or limitation. Words such as can, do, and will allow for possibilities, for action, for solving problems and addressing issues. The listener responds accordingly.
Should You Say Should?
While people respond positively to can, will, do, etc., should is a word that sets listeners on edge, even when used in a positive construction. It’s a word that implies judgment. The message of should is that you haven’t been doing something you were supposed to or expected to do. Even a statement that seems as well-meaning as, “You should get a haircut,” comes with a full bag of possibly negative interpretations. In short, if you can avoid saying should, you should.
If…then statements—or conditional statements if you want to be fancy—are useful for positive communication for several reasons. For a start, the language itself tends to be neutral, without the heavy baggage that comes with word choices such as can’t or should. If delivered in a neutral tone of voice, the if…then statement outlines a cause and effect, which offers a possible resolution. It also allows an easy setup for the kind of concrete and specific request essential to clear communication. To see the power of the if…then statement, note your own responses to the following examples:
- We cannot fulfill your request at this time because you have not provided the proper documents.
- If you provide documents x, y, and z, we can fulfill your request.
These two statements convey very similar information but in drastically different ways. The first statement seems to imply blame, and it seems to close the matter without a direct offer of a solution. By contrast, the second statement avoids judgment and provides a concrete and specific way to solve the problem.
Take a Breath
While the words you choose to use are important—especially in written communication—the way you deliver those words is even more important. A listener or reader processes a lot of aspects of tone in speaking and in writing in ways we aren’t even fully conscious of. Before you call that meeting or send that email, it’s a good idea to get into the right headspace. Whatever words you use, they’re more likely to be interpreted positively if they’re coming from a positive attitude.
At The Records Company, we pride ourselves on our positive communication because we love what we do: making the workday easier and more efficient for our clients. Contact us to find out how we can add more positivity to your day.