Eliminate the negative.

So let me ask you: if you were really interested in, say, learning a new language and the first thing your language teacher said was, “This is going to be really hard and you’re never going to be fluent, but you may be able to learn to understand when someone gives you directions,” would you still keep going to class? Would your heart be a little pained because your happy dreams had been stomped on?

I bring this up because I just got back from getting some work done at a medical massage clinic here in town. As I was waiting for my turn, I overheard a therapist “answering questions” in a bored tone of voice about the clinic’s approach to massage.

Just so you know, the conversation was in an open consulting room right off the waiting room. I couldn’t help but hear. The prospective client was in her 50’s, was dealing with pain from an accident that happened a decade ago, and she had never had a massage. The lady was at the clinic to learn more and was hoping to find relief. The therapist told the lady it was going to take a lot of work, she was going to experience more discomfort in the process, and there was no guarantee that any of the efforts would pay off.

Now, this may all be true, but GEE WHIZ! Lighten up, Francis. Odds are, most of you reading this are shaking your heads at this point. I have to confess it was all I could do not to butt in. The lady left, clearly discouraged. I did run out and give her a card of one of the massage therapists my mom sees. Hopefully, she’ll give it a try. And I did talk to one of the senior staff about the conversation I’d overheard. So I feel less bad than I would otherwise.

This has turned into a bit of a downer blog, but here’s the perky bit. I feel encouraged and inspired to examine my way I talk to our customers (that’s you). This is like dusting off the top of the bookshelves; you can’t see the dust but it is affecting you in a low-grade, pervasive, long-term way. I’m going to work to eliminate “don’t” statements that I use every day. Instead of saying, “Don’t worry about public speaking,” I can say, “It’s great you’re giving people a chance to see what a friendly, professional person you are.”

(Hmm…being positive takes more words.)

Now, here’s my little challenge to you. Well, challenges, really:

  1. Assuming everything the cranky massage therapist said is true, what would have been a better, more diplomatic, positive way of phrasing it?
  2. What is a common “don’t” phrase you use frequently and what is your more positive re-wording?

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