George Bernard Shaw once said, “The secret to success is to offend the greatest number of people.” Amusing as the quote might be, it certainly isn’t the best approach to modern business.
In business, negativity is always detrimental. Wikipedia’s entry on negative messages pretty much sums it up. “In the business world, [negative messages create] delivery and calculation errors, product malfunctions, [and] refusal of routine requests.” No businessperson wants a loss of productivity, unhappy clients, and ineffective employees.
A client recently invited me to work as a sub-contractor on one of their projects. I was certain after our initial meeting that I understood a couple of key details: how the work was being divvied up, the arrangement for financial compensation. I was excited about the project and began to lay the groundwork.
My preparatory efforts then led to a second meeting. That’s when I discovered that the goalposts had moved. Not only was the focus of the work different from what had been originally agreed upon, but the compensation had also been restructured —and not to my benefit. Needless to say, I was unhappy on both counts, and irked by the speed at which the parameters of the project had shifted.
My first instinct was to vent my anger with a few of the choice words that come to mind when you’re upset. But I was advised by a trusted colleague to walk away from the project, rather than to continue in anger. As much I wanted to bring closure by telling off the person, I recalled the adage about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar. The incident got me thinking that we can all benefit a bit more from being positive and constructive in our business communication.
Here are three tips to make your business communication more positive and get better results.
1. Be Thoughtful
We all make choices throughout our day, one of the most important of which is the words we use. Thoughtful word choice can make the difference between a negative response that upsets its recipient and a positive one that has the opposite effect.
So choose your words thoughtfully and carefully, or they may come back to bite you!
2. Be Cool
When you’re on the receiving end of a negative response—angry voice mails, negative emails, and so on—think before you respond. Take time to prepare what you want to say. Being rational and calm may just help the other person to take it down a notch. A more reasonable, positive communication can move the situation forward in a way that benefits both parties.
In today’s multi-tasking, always-wired world, people are often too focused on trying to get everything done, and don’t think to take the extra moment necessary to be kind. But the fundamental human response to being treated with kindness is to respond positively—it’s a two-way street. Put yourself in the receiver’s shoes when you are communicating. It’s likely that your kindness will be reciprocated.
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I realize, of course, in business it is impossible to totally avoid being negative in the way we express our thoughts. But that shouldn’t stop you from saying what you have to say in a calm, thoughtful, and constructive way, as I did with the director of the organization, when invited to follow up with her.
You don’t need to sugar coat a challenging or difficult conversation or message. But it is possible to frame it with some positive words, or by being constructive, before getting to the tough stuff. The idea isn’t just to create a buffer before presenting unpleasant information. It’s also a way of being courteous to the person on the receiving end. After all, you probably don’t want to see how things will turn out if you follow that piece of advice from George Bernard Shaw.
Dr. Sandra Folk, business communications expert and founder of the Language Lab, understands how poor communication affects business and how costly it can be. She specializes in improving the business writing and presentation skills of executives and their employees. Clients from a range of industries include finance, real estate, insurance, engineering, and government. Her unique “practice over time” approach to learning ensures client success. As a published writer in the fields of education and journalism, she has authored textbooks and feature articles in prominent business publications.
MORE ON COMMUNICATION:
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- 14 Phrases You Need to Start Using »
Do you agree? Is negativity a recipe for disaster in business? Let us know by commenting below.