In consensus training courses, we watch a person’s arm strength diminish visibly after (s)he concentrates on self criticism. Then we see the strength increase when (s) practices legitimate self praise. The most important lesson I drew from reading The Secret by Rhonda Byrne was to try to focus my speech on the positive words that describe what I do want, and reduce talk about what I fear, dislike, or wish to avoid.
Such practices not only boost your own physical and psychological strength, they also affect those you talk with. Studies have shown that, after focusing on words related to anger, people behave rudely. When they are exposed to words associated with aging, they walk more slowly.
So what do you think happens when we sit down to persuade someone not to run late on his part of a project so that we won’t have to pull an all-nighter? If, as Byrne suggests, focusing on tardiness and all-nighters subconsciously engenders those very things, far better to ask that he do his part on time so that we can get enough sleep. And if, as some cynics would say, the words don’t matter, there’s no harm in hedging your bet by using the positive terminology.
Using positive speech challenges us. The media inundates us with fear marketing, both commercial and political. It’s hard not to talk about the scary scenarios such messages call into our minds. Moreover, some of us are temperamentally pre-disposed to think like troubleshooters. We naturally tune in to what’s wrong with something so we can find a way to improve it.
Of course we need to be aware of the problems so that we can define the positive solutions to which we aspire. But once we’ve done that, the best bet is to use positive language.