“Say what you mean, and mean what you say, but don’t say it mean!”
– Author Unknown
You and your colleagues unconsciously use negative language everyday. I’m sure you don’t even realise that you are doing it and not even noticing the effect it has on others, or how they react as a result.
Depending on what research you go by, there is somewhere between a quarter of a million to three-quarters of a million words in the English dictionary. (There is a lot of confusion around the derivatives of words) – but still – this is a huge number! There must be many options to use positive words as opposed to negative ones.
What are negative words?
Can’t / don’t / won’t
What are positive words?
Can / do / will
Fantastic / Wonderful / Fantabulous! – the list goes on….
As you can see from a basic brain dump, the positive list is much longer.
Looking at the list of negatively perceived words, it looks impossible to remove these from your vocabulary completely. Use these tips to see if you can make a small but beneficial difference to your language.
It can be as simple as exchanging “Sorry to keep you waiting” with, “thank you for holding” whilst a customer or stakeholder is on the phone. Instead of the person feeling as though they have been interrupted and you are apologising because you shouldn’t have stepped away from the call, they are hearing a more positive approach by you expressing gratitude.
Instead of finishing with a negative, finish with the positive, so the person leaves feeling positive about the conversation. In emails, I always finished with a negative, and I found by subtlely changing this approach, I’ve received much more positive feedback:
e.g. Instead of:
My Manager would love to meet with you, but unfortunately he is unavailable at that time due to another commitment.
Unfortunately, my Manager is unable to attend that meeting, due to an existing appointment in his diary. He is available later in the afternoon, if it is possible to reschedule this to another time, as he would love to meet with you.
I am still using the negative language that I find it hard to get away from, but in a more positive light.
There are a few other things to avoid to make your brand a more positive one by using language correctly:
– Remove fillers
e.g. like, um, y’know.
These phrases, especially when used in excess, diminish colleagues’ confidence in you.
– Remove weakeners
e.g. kinda, sort of, unsure.
These also diminish a colleague’s confidence in you.
– Try to keep acronyms to a minimum.
I work in an office where I created an acronym library there was so many! Use an acronym when the other person doesn’t know what it means, and they can feel left out or inadequate.
– At all times, keep away from inflamers
e.g. Listen, hang on, if you were listening to me, obviously.
It’s almost impossible to even read these in a sing song voice, they demand intonation and represent frustration. These words are not necessary.
– Stop using slang
e.g. no worries, mate.
Unless you work in a trade, these don’t portray a professional image in the workplace.
– Swear Words
Don’t belong in an office environment.
On a side note, have you ever realised that it’s very common to use the terms “no worries”, “no problem” and “not bad”? English is the only language that does this, and other people who don’t use English as their first language, can get confused when all they hear is No and Worry!