In the cheerless days of 1944, when the Second World War was at its height, a little song became very popular. Written by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen and performed by the peerless Bing Crosby, Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative, became a hit both in the USA and here in the UK.
That song still resonates today because we do have a tendency, however unaware we may be, of doing it by injecting negative words into our conversation.
Another if our great Vistage speakers, John Cremer, often uses a little role-play exercise in his presentation. He has two people facing each other and one starts the conversation by saying “What about trying……?” The other can only respond by saying “Yes, AND…….!” to add to the idea and the two of them build it from there.
The role play then changes with the answer becoming “Yes, BUT……” and then continues as before.
Just watch the difference in the body language in each exercise, never mind the change in energy, and this is just role play not the real thing.
Starting a sentence with “no”, “but” or “however” are used, whether we like it or not, to gain or consolidate power and they can have a really serious effect on the listener.
Negativity drains energy from people and even from a room with a consequent reduction in enthusiasm and the desire to achieve. If you are running a meeting it needs to be in a “negative free zone”!
If you watch out for it, you will see how using those words can engender intense resentment, either conscious or unconscious, and they can stifle rather than open up discussion.
Teams and people react to verbal stimuli from leaders, both positive and negative and for obvious reasons we should always look to “accentuate the positive” rather than the reverse.
One of our top Vistage speakers, Marcus Child, cites the example of the football coach who exhorts his team to “Stop moving the ball sideways” or “Don’t use the long ball” or “Don’t give up so easily”, all negatives.
Rather be positive and tell your team what they CAN or SHOULD do and illustrate your thoughts with positive consequences.
Marcus Child says that even replying to a “thank you” with “no problem” is a double negative! A far better answer is “It’s a pleasure!” or "You're welcome!"
Listen too people in shops, on the street, being interviewed on the radio or TV and hear how these negative words and phrases have insidiously crept into our everyday conversation.
All in all, it is a matter of habit and one we need to watch out for in order to “Eliminate the Negative”.
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