A simple way to make change more positive for your team is to focus on the power of positive language.
In this article you’ll discover how to identify when your language is ‘leaking’ negative emotions. Plus, we provide positive language examples for you to apply as you lead your team through change.
Positive language reinforces positive thinking
Using positive language – and encouraging your team to do so – helps to overcome personal resistance to change.
It creates a shift from ‘learned helplessness’ to ‘learned optimism’.
This shift to learned optimism take place because the language we use reflects and re-enforces or thinking.
By changing your language, you can use language to your advantage. You can use it to shift thinking, helping yourself and your team to successfully navigate change.
Here are some of the ways that language reflects thinking.
Past versus future
Language gives clues to whether we’re living in the past or looking forward to the future. Whether we’re glorifying ‘the good old days’ or thinking about the opportunities ahead.
If we shift our language we’ll start to shift our thinking.
|Don’t live in the past||Do use these positive language examples|
|“It used to be so much better when…”||“It will be better when… ”|
|“Before XXX we could…”||“In future we’ll be able to…”|
|“I remember when…”||“I anticipate that…”|
Conflict versus collaboration
Our language gives clues to whether we’re just looking for problems or alternatively looking for opportunities to collaborate.
|Don’t look to allocate blame||Do use these positive language examples|
|“Why did you do that?”||“What have you learnt?”|
|“You should have…”||“Next time…”|
|“Don’t…”||“Do make sure that…”|
Helpless versus in control
Our language gives clues to whether we feel helpless or feel positive about our role in the change. Are we just waiting for others to make decisions, or controlling our own destiny?
|Don’t use helpless language||Do use these positive language examples|
|“I have to…”||“I will…”|
|“I don’t know.”||“Let me find out.”|
|“That’s the way we’re told to do it.”||“The things we can improve are…”|
Positive language examples: how to make it happen
It is important to acknowledge the challenges that your team is facing and be honest about the impact. Use positive language in the right way, not to ‘spin’ facts or mislead.
Be clear and direct about change and use positive language to encourage the right mindset for dealing with change.
1. Monitor your own language
First, become more aware of the language that you’re using. Use the framework we provided above.
Be mindful of all the informal language you use through-out the day. Identify the words and phrases that you use which are leaking negative thoughts.
“Why not” can become “Sounds good!”
“No problem” can become “Let’s do it!”
“Can’t complain” can become “Work is going well, thank you!”
These phrases may not sound authentic to you. If so, don’t use them. Find your own words and phrases that have the same impact!
That leads us to…
2. Define your own positive language examples
As you become more aware of your language, be clear about the positive language opportunities. Define the words and phrases you can starting using. Then get into the habit of using them in everyday conversations in the workplace.
You’ll catch yourself missing a few opportunities at first, that’s part of the process. With a little perseverance you’ll shift to using your own positive language examples and you’ll see the benefits.
3. Review your written communications
It’s not just what you say, your written communications are important too. Make it a habit to check your emails and other written communications for positive language. Write them to be future-focused, collaborative and in control.
As you’re working to prepare presentations, you can do the same. Make positive language a conscious part of your presentation preparation.
4. Monitor your team’s language and provide feedback
Be aware of the language your team is using. Pick the right opportunities to make a point. This might be in a team meeting or 1-1 meeting (especially if you hear several examples of ‘less than positive’ language).
Just make your team aware of what you’re hearing and ask them to reflect. Use 1-1s for giving feedback too. Share the importance of using positive language. Use the language that you’re hearing as an starting point for discussing their views and opinions.
By gently encouraging positive language within your team you’ll start to make a shift, as people use the language to see opportunities and adopt a more positive mindset.
Don’t ‘over sell’ this. People shouldn’t feel forced. Just gently encourage your team to see the benefit of using language to help shape mindset.
5. Give your team new tools to cultivate a positive mindset
As you become more attuned to your team’s language you’ll get a better sense of their mindset too.
We’ve looked at how positive language reinforces positive thinking. Shift the equation around and work on positive thinking to reinforce positive language.
There are plenty of tools to help you do this:
- Encourage your team to cultivate a growth mindset
- Help them explore their circle of influence
- Work on their sources of power
Start to shift their mindset too, and you’ll see more examples of positive language!
In summary – the power of positive language
You can use positive language to reinforce positive thinking, for both yourself and your team.
Look out for the ways that language reflects thinking:
- Past versus future
- Conflict versus collaboration
- Helpless versus in control
Take action to use more positive language:
- Monitor your own language
- Define your own positive language examples
- Review your written communications
- Monitor your team’s language and provide feedback
- Give your team new tools to cultivate a positive mindset
Using positive language to your advantage and you’ll find it easier to lead change!