Avoiding negative language

Having a culture where negative language is rife amongst leadership can quickly spell disaster for a business. It is demotivating and disengaging. On the other hand, having a culture whereby positive language is used allows businesses to grow and remain optimistic even in times of hardship. It encourages, acknowledges and motivates.

The words you use can have such powerful implications on the people listening to you. In today’s business world, it is essential to not only use the right words in your meetings and verbal communications, but in written communications such as emails.

Negative words to remove from your vocabulary forever

Let’s pin-point some particularly common negative words and phrases that I hear so often are unfortunately so common in our Aussie culture, yet have deep negative impacts. The three most common culprits I have come across are:

  1. 1.“Yeah, but..”
  2. 2.“No”
  3. 3.“However..”

You should try to avoid using and if possible, completely eliminate these negative words from your conversations with work colleagues. Why? Because they have a very powerful effect of implying to the recipient when you speak them, that whatever it is that has just been said immediately before, is less important that what you areabout to say. Using these words indicate that you are not accepting, acknowledging or are dismissing whatever was said before. The effect on your recipient is therefore that they feel confronted, dismissed, unappreciated and probably argumentative, and will therefore result in them disengaging and losing trust in you. The ripple effect of this type of subtle but powerful negative language is enormous and before you know it, the organisational culture can quickly become unproductive.

Instead, when you are in meetings or having conversations with your team, either collectively or individually, reinforce what has just been said in a manner that shows your team that you genuinely understand their point of view. Preceed your acknowledgement with positive affirmations such as “Yes, you are right” or “Yes, that’s spot-on”. It’s then most effective to acknowledge what has just been said in your own words, so they understand you have interpreted it well. Be agreeable with at least some aspects of what they have just said. Once you have established this acknowledgement, then you can put forward your perspective/ the company’s perspective. Using words like “and” before stating your point of view doesn’t’ imply you are disregarding their point of view, but that it works hand in hand with theirs.

Here’s an example:

Employee: “Last time we did this project it resulted in us losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is just ludicrous that we are even thinking of doing it again.”

Manager: “Yes, you are quite correct. The last time we implemented this project we spent a lot of money. We did a lot of investment in the development stage and the launch. We have a lot of templates and procedures now to follow, as well as learnings, so this time around it will require less investment.”

In this example, the manager has found part of the statement he/she can agree with, has agreed and acknowledged what has been said, has restated it in his/ her own words, and has delicately put forward the company point of view without using any language that dismisses or de-values what the employee said. It is much more likely to be agreeable and result in employee buy-in.

Avoid inhibiting language

Some other word choices to avoid in the workplace are inhibitors such as ‘I can’t’ or ‘that will never work’. “Can’t”, “won’t”, “never” all work to inhibit conversation and set a negative tone and worse, set a negative outlook amongst employees.

It’s important to understanding the power behind such inhibitive language and the enormity of the detrimental impact it can have on the organisational culture. It can directly inhibit an idea-generating and productive culture. If new ideas are met with negative feedback enough, it will result in new ideas ceasing to be formed as staff are unmotivated.

The power of “How might we”

A wonderful example of a phrase that I would highly encourage you to adapt and use as often as possible is “How might we..”.

The “how” implies that something will happen, with the method yet to be discovered by the collective team. The ‘might’ implies that something could happen and it actively invites new ideas whilst also removing any feeling of shame if the idea is not ultimately used. The word ‘we’ implies a collaborative effort and the likelihood that an eventual decision will be supported by the whole team. All in all, it’s a great phrase to use to turn a potentially negative or challenging topic in to one whereby everyone wants to seek a positive solution.

Choosing the right words to use in any given situation is crucial to achieving the results you seek. Don’t underestimate the huge impact just one negative word can have not only on individuals, but on your entire organisation. Leading and responding to conversations by using positive language will result in happier, more fulfilled and more motivated employees.

Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.

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