Saturday, December 17, 2011

Communicating Positively

WordsImage by sirwiseowl via FlickrBy Arun Dash

In the last meeting with my manager, I had a bad time. My manager, like all managers, expressed his anguish over my substandard performance and winded up the conversation in less than the scheduled time.

Disgusted and helpless, as we all become in such situations, I rushed out of the meeting room when the glass door made a noise, to which he responded, 'Don't slam the door!'

I left the place with a heavy heart. A cup of coffee, and then, I became the same irrevocable 'I'. But something struck my mind: why did he use those words - 'Don't slam the door!'?

Someone who often advocates positivism should not have used such words. He could have simply said, 'Shut the door quietly!' Well, maybe that's a stray incident for him! And who am I to judge my manager? In fact, they are species better left unjudged!

Before you tell me to 'shut up and stop beating around the bush', let me direct you where I want you to be ... if you are not yet there.

How we express ourselves demonstrates the persona in us. In a way, the language or words we use projects our personality. Also, if we are a little more careful than our usual way, we can convey an unpleasant piece of news in a soothing manner. And for pleasant things, the words we use might have both positive and negative orientations.

In business writing or any other professional writing, weighing each word before we put that to use, whether in writing or orally, is always advised. Words spoken with sincere intentions might hurt the listeners if they connote a negative meaning.

Let's analyze what goes into these two radically different language patterns.

Signs of a Positive Communicator
  • Emphasizes the expected positive actions and positive consequences
  • Gives clues to the recipients about the possible actions they can take
  • Suggests worthy alternatives available to the recipients
  • Communicates in a friendly and encouraging tone rather than diplomatically
Signs of a Negative Communicator
  • Highlights the expected negative outcome in any situation
  • Hints at the impossibilities and hardships that may come up
  • Often carries a subtle tone of blame
  • Uses words like can't, won't, unable to, and the like very often
  • Ignores the obvious positive consequences

Here are a few examples that illustrate both positive and negative orientations of the message to be conveyed:

Not: We apologize for this error.
But: We appreciate your calling this matter to our attention.

Not: Don't repeat such silly mistakes ever again in your documents!
But: Do a thorough self-review to avoid such mistakes before you send the document.

Not: Don't modify the copyright statement!
But: Retain the copyright statement as it is.

Not: No, our efforts cannot go waste.
But: Our sincere efforts will certainly lead us to success.

Need more such examples? Let's look into our email archives. There is chance we may find a few more instances, which we should take note of to ensure that we communicate positively.

We tend to use most of our words subconsciously. So, a conscious approach to do away with the usage of negative language is an easy way to get into the positive mode. The trick is to listen to our own words and make small changes as and when we repeat them in similar situations latter.


A cruel word may instil hate.
A loving word may heal and bless.
One who knows the best of this choice
Would win the kiss of success!

Arun Dash |
Technical Writer |
HSBC Global Technology

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