Many scholarly works have been written about the power of positive language to help improve your mood and attitude. Ever since John Eccles won the Nobel Prize in medicine 1963 for finding specific signal transmissions among neurons in the brain, people have been looking at ways to explain human behavior.
According to Christopher Bergland:
Eccles believed that the volition neurons of the self-willed mind were always ready to fire. Just triggering one of these specialized neurons could create a domino effect that spreads like wildfire from a few thousands of neurons to engaging billions of synapses. Can you feel your volition switch turn “on” when reading the verbs: “Go. Jump. Attack.” and “off” when reading: “Stop. Sit. Surrender.”? Researchers can literally see the spark of volition go ‘on’ and ‘off’ in a brain-imaging fMRI, just as you can feel it.
That power you have over yourself? You have that power over other people in both your personal and work life.
That is why you should be thoughtful when you are communicating with the people around you. Let’s look at three examples of a short message you might send in an email or text. They say the same thing but have very different tones.
The project is going great. It will be done tomorrow at 2pm.
The project will be done tomorrow at 2pm.
I am not looking forward to it, but the project will be done tomorrow at 2pm.
How do these responses make you or the recipient feel?
The Positive message makes the recipient feel great for asking the question, it also instills them with confidence in your ability to get the job done and how good you are at doing that job.
The Neutral message gets the point across and does not embellish or falsely represent you. It is a decent compromise when you are not yet comfortable with positive language as it relates to a communication.
The Negative message injects how you might be feeling, but it is telling the person that this work is inconvenient to you. That they should feel bad about it.
How to get used to changing your language
In the rush to communicate, we all cannot help but inject our personal feelings into a conversation. In an open environment a candid discussion of the situation should always be welcome, but realize that when you deploy language, it has unintended consequences. It can sour relationships and ruin confidence.
This might all sound like common sense because we often have the best intentions when we try to communicate. Yet I think if you take a moment to check your words, you will see that the tone of the message you are hoping to convey gets lost in hastily or poorly chosen words.
So next time you are communicating with someone, write your response, and before you hit SEND, just stop. Step away from it and work on something else. Then come back to it and don’t think about revising the content, but the message. Does your language capture what you are intending to convey about the situation? If it doesn’t, revise your work.