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Sunday, 7 March 2010

You Gotta Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative

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 has a resonance today because we do have a tendency, however unaware we may be of doing it, to inject negative words into our conversation.

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.

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 says that even replying to a “thank you” with “no problem” is a double negative! A far better answer is “It’s a pleasure!”. 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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