Negative language can have a big impact

In my last article I spoke about the power of using collaborative and inclusive language. It is vitally important and forms the foundation for strong relationships and productive cultures. Businesses bursting at the seams with vitality and progression have a culture of positive and open communication and positive language. Everyone feels connected and valued. Negative language can be equally powerful, in a very detrimental way.

Having a culture where negative language is commonplace amongst leadership can lead to staff feeling demotivated, misunderstood, disconnected and disengaged. And let me clarify, having a culture where negative language is common, does not necessarily mean staff are being yelled at, verbally abused and torn to pieces on a daily basis. Negative language is much more subtle that that. Negative language is the opposite to positive language. Examples are “we never agree on anything”, “try not to be so sensitive”, “you always seem to deliver projects late”, “we can’t do it that way, it doesn’t work”, “that’s not a good idea”.

Three effects of negative language

  1. Tension
    Think of a time you received an email laced with passive aggressive language ..”as previously discussed on numerous occasions….”, “perhaps you missed my previous brief”, “seeming you haven’t returned my calls..”. Conflict, be at a team level or individual level, often leads to people placing blame on others and becoming defensive. This type of conflict is the polar-opposite of collaboration. Negative interaction can quickly escalate small issues into big issues. Instead of empathy, people are pushed to keep on fighting with each other over relatively trivial issues. Interactions become unpleasant and far from collaborative. Left unsolved, people can lose sight of the big picture in these situations and work becomes a place that is not enjoyable to the individuals involved.
  2. Low Productivity
    Poor communication doesn’t need to have negative language to make it poor. You can be the most positive and encouraging person n the world, but if you are poor at communicating information to your team, the impact can be negative for everyone involved. Lack of clarity over roles, deliverables timeframes can lead to chaos and tension within a team. You have a boss who quickly gets angry whenever someone asks a question. Think of a time you were involved in a project with a leader who was a little airy-fairy on what your role was, and how urgent the work was and you ended up getting blamed for not delivering. Poor communication can ruin even the best workers and teams. Without good rapport and effective opportunities to share information, the potential synergy of the team just disappears.
  3. Disengaged staff
    Poor communication leads to conflict, which in turn leads to a big fall in motivation. In workplaces where tension is high and people and teams are embattled, employees won’t have the energy to finish more critical tasks properly. High tension relationships are not collaborative. It is simply impossible to expect to cohesive, high-performing teams in environments where people don’t get on and negativity is rife. A good leader needs to acutely in tune with conflict and resolve it in positive ways.

How can you eliminate negative language and negative communication?

Here are a few helpful ways in which you can set a foundation of collaboration and positive communication;

  1. Ban these words from your workplace vocabulary for good; “Yeah, but..”, “No”, “However..” These words are so common in our Aussie culture, yet have deep negative impacts. 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 are about 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.
  2. Try to be concise – It’s a valuable skill to communicate information with as few words as possible. Practice being more concise the next time you need to hold a meeting or send an email.
  3. Practice empathy – try to better understand the people you work with and how they might interpret the world around them. Their life experience is not the same as yours. When trying to communicate with individuals be aware of the language you use and don’t mistake being clear, with being blunt. Always speak with empathy and respect.
  4. Actively listen – Listening is one thing, but listening alone is not enough if you don’t actively engage during a conversation. Ask clarifying questions and encourage others to do the same to you is important to ensure there have been no breakdowns in communication.

Avoiding negative language begins with being mindful each time we open our mouths or type on our keyboards to communicate. Try being less negative and more positive in your word choice today.

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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