How to Keep Your Language Positive

The words that you use can either radiate positive energy to others, or they can drain energy. This applies to our roles as leaders, colleagues, parents or friends.

In this article, I am going to give you a positive language micro-skill to keep your language positive. This micro skill will help you motivate your team. It will help you stay in the positive zone, even when things are not going as right as you would like.

Let’s start by getting a movie rolling.

Put yourself in this picture…

It’s the beginning of the day. Your team is about to have a pre-shift meeting with your supervisor. You are in a customer service position.

Your supervisor enters the room.  He does not look happy.

He uses language along the following lines:

“The front office did not communicate with the maintenance department yesterday morning, and this created an unhappy customer. How did this happen yet again? We need to fix this problem once and for all!”

The supervisor goes on to discuss the negative impacts from the event and talks about how to fix the problem.

Heads look down. Energy seems to have been sucked out of the room.

At the end of the meeting, if the team is lucky, the supervisor will say, “Have a good day!”

Yeah, right.

At a psychological level, the members of the team have been primed to focus on the negatives. We walk away with a low energy, “we need to avoid problems” mind-set.

This energy will be reflected in the service levels that we deliver to our customers.

Now, let’s rewind the team briefing. And, let’s introduce the positive language micro-skill.

It comes in two parts. First, turn the negative situation into a positive statement.

FROM…

“The front office did not communicate with the maintenance department yesterday morning. How did this happen yet again? We need to fix this problem once and for all!…”

TO a positive statement…

“Let’s keep our customers happy by having great communications between the front office and the maintenance department. We weren’t quite there yesterday.”

The second part involves asking a question using the two words, “more of”.

“What do we have to do more of to achieve this?”

So, putting the two together, this is what you hear your supervisor say at your pre-shift meeting:

“Let’s keep our customers happy by having great communications between the front office and the maintenance department. We weren’t quite there yesterday. What do we have to do more of to achieve this?”

How would you feel if your supervisor used this type of language? Your mind would be shifted from “problem” to “opportunity”, from the negative, to the positive possibility.

In fact, in your everyday life, you can often just ask the question, “What can we do more of?”

So, instead of eg “How can we fix the communication breakdown in our family?”, we ask, “What can we do more of?”

Or, instead of, “We keep missing deadlines. How can we avoid this problem happening in the future?”, we ask, “What can we do more of?”

This is an example of how our organization applies this. After our TMI team runs major client events, we sit down at the end of the day and do a debrief. We ask two questions. The first is, “What did we do well?” The second is, “What could we have done more of?” We do not ask the typical question, “What went wrong and how do we fix it next time?” as this is an energy-draining question.

We get to the same place – dealing with the issues – by using the language of “What can we do more of?”

It’s simple and it works. Make it a part of how you communicate – and you will be more than happy with the outcome!

By the way, if you want to know more about how to keep your language positive and appreciative, become a student of Appreciative Inquiry. Start with the book, “The Power of Appreciative Inquiry” by Diana Whitney and Amanda Trosten-Bloom.

Until next time!