Small Business Communication Tip: Use Positive, Affirming Phrasing

One of the most valuable lessons that I learned from being in a sorority in college was to always talk in positives. We were taught creative ways to avoid saying the word “no.”

Years later I learned about NLP (neuro linguistic programming) which also teaches people to speak in the affirmative instead of the negative at all times.

So say a customer or client asks you if you offer a certain service — instead of saying “no we don’t do that” you’d say “we offer an even better option to meet your needs.”

It’s actually kind of fun — it’s like a brain tease to figure out creative ways to avoid saying the word “no” or “not.”

And it’s good for business.

Customers Don’t Like Being Told “No”
The psychology of this is that people are more open and receptive to your messages when you speak to them using affirmative language. People don’t really like being told “no.” Do you?

Customers also respond better when a business offers them alternative solutions instead of just saying “no.” They feel respected as if you are trying to work with them.

When you use negative language with your colleagues and employees, you may find that you have trouble getting what you do want from them. For instance, telling someone “don’t be late” puts “lateness” instead of “being on time” in their mind, and they unconsciously do things that still make them show up late.

Real Life Examples
Here are a few more examples of ways that you can change your language when communicating with business clients, customers, employees, colleagues and suppliers:

Instead of telling your employees “don’t mess up the reports” you would tell them “please take special care to ensure accurate reports.”

Instead of “no refunds” you might say “we’d be happy to offer an exchange, store credit or upgrade.”

Instead of “there’s nothing more I can do” you might say “I have made every effort to satisfy your request.”

Instead of saying “no we aren’t open on Sundays” you would say “We’re conveniently open from Monday through Saturday, 9am to 7pm.”

Instead of telling a supplier “No, I can’t accept that discount” say “I would like to negotiate a better discount arrangement that is beneficial for both of us. What can we do here?”



You get the idea. Examine your last 10 emails and letters to see how you might be using negative language when communicating with others. In your small business communications, make every effort to modify that language in the future so that it expresses affirmative, positive feedback and viable solutions.

Louise Gaillard is a professional writer, marketing consultant and the author of Easy Twitter Marketing Tips for Business Success.





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