About eight plus years ago I got a piece of unsolicited child-rearing advice: always use positive language when talking to children. Don’t say, “stop jumping on the couch!” Instead, say “couches are for sitting.” Now, I’d like to say that I’ve taken that to heart, but when you see footprints all over the couches and cushions and throw pills all over the floor it’s hard not to yell. (Sorry, kids!)
But forget parenting: it’s actually in business where we all need to put positive language to work. I find myself rewriting emails all the time–especially difficult emails–to improve the overall vibe of the message I’m trying to convey.
- “We can’t move forward without a work agreement” becomes “We can start as soon as we receive your work agreement!”
- “That’s impossible without scrapping everything we’ve done so far” becomes “That can be done, but we’ll need to take a few steps back and re-scope the project and timeline…will that work for you?”
- “Once you approve the storyboards it becomes a lot more expensive to make changes to the programming” becomes “Let’s make sure you’re OK with the storyboards now, because it’s a lot easier (read: cheaper) to make changes to storyboards than complex database programming.”
- “We can’t launch your web site without final payment” becomes “Once we receive the final payment we can launch your site, blog about it, and start making you money!”
To some people this may not seem like a big deal, but in my experience (and sadly, I’m getting more experience every day) it changes the entire tenor of a conversation.