“Don’t ever diminish the power of words. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs.” -Hamza Yusuf
Have you ever wondered what the reaction to your questions or requests could be when you use the words like don’t, can’t ,won’t ? When request are worded in such negative terms the reactions most often are defensive.
Try requesting a young kid by saying, “don’t watch TV often”. The kid would invariably be defensive and make all excuses possible to remain hooked to the big screen. If the same request is worded in a positive action language, like “ watching TV often will not be good for your eyes and overall well being.” Then there would be a higher probability of being heard.
The book, Nonviolent Communication-A language of life by Marshall B Rosenberg, talks about using Positive Action Language. The author talks about how we express what we are requesting rather than what we are not requesting . The book showcases many examples, anecdotes, role plays were the use of Positive Action Language has shown positive results and less of defensive behavior.
The power of using Positive words
“Your words have power. Speak words that are kind, loving, positive, uplifting, encouraging, and life-giving.” -Unknown
As parents while we try to discipline our kids , we use words like Don’t, shouldn’t and so on. The belief is that the kids would listen and be more disciplined.
Even in the corporate world we hear managers using the negative term very often. The reaction from the team members is equally negative and defensive. Good communication, Tact & Diplomacy can be very powerful tools not just in the workplace but also in our life.
According to Rosenberg, making request in clear, positive, concrete action language reveals what we really want. A lack of clarity in the language and being vague does contribute to confusion. Shifting the focus from a negative word to a positive word can help inspire positive action and a better outcome.
Request or Demand
Rosenberg suggest that request may sound like demands when unaccompanied by the speaker’s feelings and needs. According to him when people state their request without first communicating the feelings and needs behind them, then the listener is clueless of what is expected.
This happens many times , especially if you are talking to someone in the family or your spouse. The belief is that while you say something, the person understands that you are making a request. But unfortunately it is not clear if you really demanded something or have you requested something to be done and this lack of clarity could lead to frustration.
Last week, I wanted my son to buy a new shirt for his friends wedding. I felt and assumed that he did not have a suitable shirt for the occasion. Instead of letting him know my feelings, I simply asked him, “How about buying a new shirt”. He was confused, because he did not understand why I was saying this. Was I demanding that he buys a new shirt. To make matters worse, I kept repeating the same thing without letting him know my worries that the existing shirt may not be suitable for a wedding ceremony. And then I get a response “ Are you saying my existing shirt does not look good on me, Mom” ? Had I made a clear request , I would have received a positive response without any confusion.
Positive language can help to strengthen relationships, build trust and prevent conflict and confusion. While I am still trying to wrap my head around some of the practices outlined in Rosenberg’s book, I have recommended this book to many of my coaching clients. It has proved to be very useful for clients dealing with communication challenges.
Non Verbal Communication
Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication and found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc). This means that 93% of all daily communication is non-verbal and 7% through the use of words.
Given the above numbers , shows that nonverbal communication is the most crucial aspect of any communication. People evaluate you on the basis of the warmth that you show towards them. It takes self awareness and practice to ensure that your nonverbal communication is passing the right messages to the people you speak to.
Good communication is all about trying to build trust. Nonverbal communication helps to convey your true emotions which when matched the words that you use to communicate , deliver a greater sense of warmth and trust.People should sense the true emotions from your body language.
“Few realize how loud their expressions really are. Be kind with what you wordlessly say.”― Richelle E. Goodrich