Nina Spencer

It’s only words? Part 1

Mastering positive alternatives to negative messages

To increase your happiness and satisfaction at work and in life it helps to come from positive/abundance thinking instead of disparity/have not thinking. What is the difference between Abundance and Disparity Thinking? Abundance thinking is thinking that knows that there is enough to go around...it's just a matter of finding the way. Disparity thinking assumes the worst before even trying to find the way. Do you subscribe to Murphy's Law, that says, What ever can go wrong will go wrong? Or even worse, Jones' Law, which retorts, Murphy was an optimist? Have you ever practiced Yhprum's Law, instead? Consciously exercising positive thinking and positive self-talk is the ground work for abundance thinking.

A UCLA survey from a few years ago reported that the average one year old child hears the word, No!, more than 400 times a day! You may, at first, think this must be an exaggeration but consider this...when we tell a toddler No! we usually say, No, no, no!. That's three times in three seconds! If that child is particularly active, perhaps it's true...perhaps that child really does hear NO mega times a day. And, although it's a good thing that they come to understand NO early (so that they can live to celebrate a second birthday!), the bottom line is that toddlers, from all cultures and across all time lines, learn what to do by constantly being told what not to do. Then they grow up. They go to work...and the pattern of speaking and learning is set from the earliest of days. So, by the time they hit the workforce, even if they are very positive, energetic and optimistically focused individuals, they are probably speaking with negative language throughout each and everyday without even knowing it! They is us!

Do you generally use negative or positive languaging? Do you know? Are you sure?

It's always more powerful, influential and persuasive to say what you do want rather than what you don't want. The brain thinks in pictures. We hear, speak and write words but we envision the meaning behind the symbols of the letters and the sounds they make. Here's a seasonal example...you say to your colleagues, Don't forget the big office party on Friday night. Now you've gone and done it! They knew it was coming, had marked it in their calendars and had every intention of being there but the suggestion of forgetting plants a negative picture in their thinking. It's the old Zen philosophy, What you think about expands, a.k.a self-fulfilling prophecy. Do you really want these colleagues to be at the party? They may very well be there despite what words you choose, but you can have an increased, subtle yet powerful influence on the result you desire by thoughtfully and consciously choosing positively focused language. So what's the positive alternative to Don't forget? Remember! It's that simple. Remember to come to the office party Friday night. Might as well articulate what you do hope for, and leave out what you don't want, altogether.

Whether it's December or July, and whether or not we're outgoing, optimistic individuals, most of us use negative languaging, on ourselves and others, all day long, everyday. The good news is, if you really want to practice (all the rest of your life!), you can become a master of the positive way! Below are eight classic negative expressions we hear at work. Look for the negative words in each.

*How would you turn these sentences into positive declarations while still maintaining the essence of the original message?

1. I can't do anything about it until I've talked to our V.P. of Human Resources.

2. Have I got you at a bad time?

3. You've called the wrong branch. You should have called Sales & Marketing.

4. You've completely missed my point! or, You've completely misunderstood me!

5. Thank-you for holding.

6. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to call me.

7. I'm away from the office today...I will return your call as soon as possible.

8. I can't wait to see the tail end of this year!

Did you especially find yourself asking, what's wrong with number five, just the way it is? When I present this topic in keynote or workshop format, many participants particularly challenge me about number five!

Dare to make a start, and life long commitment, to using more positive day-to-day language in both your private and professional lives. A new year is a terrific time to try a new way. Know that it will be a challenge at times. The English language seems to be predisposed to the negative. In the reference book, Sissons Synonyms, English Professor Susan Harman reports there are:

  • 465 words or expressions for bad—64 for evil—11 for cruel—76 for brutal but only 150 for good!
  • There are 110 words for sad but only 27 for glad!
  • There are 124 for attack and 67 for calamity but only 28 for peace.
  • The good news is there are lots of words for faith in the future, eg. 33 for hope, 120 for begin and 147 for beginning.

I wish you, my readers, all 27 words for peace through the holiday season, and the combined three hundred words of faith in the future for your new year. Thank-you for your continued positive feedback about Working Wisdom and for sharing it with your colleagues and friends. It is my pleasure to bring Working Wisdom to your days!

*Check your responses with my suggestions for positive alternatives.

P. S. Yhprum's Law is Murphy's Law in reverse...how would you define that?