Entrepreneurial Selling

Change How You Speak and Change How You're Perceived

Written by Jay Shapiro for Gaebler Ventures

Language is powerful stuff. The way you speak or write will have an effect on whether your communication is seen as positive or negative. Even if you have to deliver an unpleasant message, the pain can be lessened if you use positive speech.

We've all met people who speak the language of pessimism.

The pessimistic speaker often criticizes ideas or says things won't work out well. The extreme pessimistic speaker rarely makes positive suggestions but s/he or offers alternatives, but these types are quick to pull apart the work of others.

If you've ever worked with a pessimist you'll know negative communication is extremely wearying for everyone around them. The perpetual challenging of the pessimist, whilst it might stimulate debate, creates a negative atmosphere.

The pessimistic speaker doesn't always hold negative beliefs to heart. Sometimes it is merely a case of their using negative speech habitually. They haven't learned how to phrase their observations in constructive and positive ways.

It's easy to slip into a negative speech pattern. Many people do it without realizing, especially with written communications. For instance, it's quite common for government organizations to pen negatively structured letters to clients and applicants, and those who it regulates. Look at the example of negative phrasing below.

"Unfortunately we are unable to process your recent application to trademark your product since you failed to supply sufficient details."

Okay, the sentence is polite enough, if a little formal. But it is also very negative. Look how many negative words feature in that one sentence.

  • Unfortunately
  • Unable
  • Failed

The message is also what we call a 'finger pointer'. The recipient is blamed for the sender's inability to perform a requested task.

By contrast, this would be a much more positive way to approach things:

"Congratulations on developing your new product. In order to trademark your name, we will need a little more information. Please return the enclosed form and we'll send you your confirmation within two weeks. Wishing you success with your new venture."

The feel of this message is much more positive, not just because of the inclusion of positive words but the message promises results not lack of them.

Negative and Positive Language

Negative language often has the following characteristics:

  • It says what can't be done
  • It is blameful
  • It features words like can't and cannot, won't and will not, unable to
  • It does not stress appropriate positive actions or consequences

Positive language has the following qualities:

  • It says what can be achieved
  • It offers alternatives and choices to the recipient
  • It has a helpful, encouraging non-bureaucratic tone
  • It stresses positive actions or consequences

Common Negative Language

Phrases that imply carelessness:

  • You neglected to...
  • You failed to...You overlooked...

Phrases that seem to question the recipient's honesty:

  • You claim...
  • You say...
  • You state...

Expressions that treat the recipient as if they are stupid:

  • We can't see how/why you have...
  • We fail to comprehend the reason you...
  • We are baffled by your...

Terms that imply pressure:

  • You really should...
  • You really ought to...
  • You must...
  • We must ask that you
  • We insist...

Sarcastic or patronizing phrases:

  • No doubt you...
  • We would thank you to...
  • You will understand, of course...

Positive Phrasing

If you're going to avoid negative phrases, you need to use positive methods of conveying your message. For instance:

  • If you can provide us with...
  • We'll complete the application for you...
  • May we suggest that...
  • Options open to you would be...
  • We can help you...

Wishing you every success with your quest to learn to communicate in a positive way!


Jay Shapiro is a freelance writer based in the UK. Jay has a particular interest in the emotive aspects of the entrepreneur's character. "Alongside the nuts and bolts of business, the character of the person is often the ingredient responsible for success."

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