3 Ways Negative Words Impact Your Influence

There are top 3 reasons to quit using negative words if you want to have more influence and be a more effective communicator. Recruiters and HR leaders continually rank effective communication skills at the top of their wish list for leaders and job candidates. Effective communicators understand the impact of their word choices – specifically negative and positive words. This is because the words you use trigger chemical reactions in the brain. In turn, those reactions impact how people respond to you – or not!

Words Fall Into Three Categories

Word patterns fall into three major categories: negative, neutral, or positive. For some reason the negative words get more airtime in daily conversations. A multi-national study shows people use more negative than positive or neutral words. Across age groups, people use 50% negative words, 30% positive and 20% neutral words. While there is a solid place for negative words, there is evidence to show why you should use them wisely. The following are three solid reasons you should use more neutral or positive words in your daily conversations.

Reason No. 1: Words Make You Feel Good or Bad

Your words have real consequences. Studies show positive words make people feel good and literally change your brain. This is because they stimulate the brain’s frontal lobes. This promotes the brain’s cognitive functioning and propels the motivational center of the brain into action. But when you speak negative words negative hormones and neurotransmitters are released in the brain. In turn, negative words trigger increased activity in the fear center of the brain called the amygdala. This causes people to feel tense, nervous, and even fearful as they attempt to figure out what you want and how to respond to you. Certain words can cause people to experience a sense of confusion, lowered self-esteem, and defensiveness. 

We have conducted a wide range of exercises during effective communication workshops to let people experience how words make them feel. Once you have a full awareness of how this works, then you are much more motivated to consciously choose more neutral or positive words to communicate.

Reason No. 2: Negative Words are Harder to Understand

The same study about word choices also confirms that negative words are harder to understand. Listeners are forced to slow down their thinking as they attempt to process your meaning when you use negative words. 

I experienced this firsthand during a stay at a Los Angeles airport hotel we frequent for business. As I was checking in, I said, “I don’t want a room on the noisy side of the hotel, and I don’t want to be near the elevator.” I immediately realized by the clerk’s nonverbal reaction that my request was stated in all negatives, so I quickly apologized. Then I restated my request and said, “Could I please have a room on the courtroom side and at least five doors away from the elevator.” She took a deep breath and said, “Now, I can handle that!” This is a firm example of how your words impact the emotional state of others and greatly influences their comprehension.

Reason No. 3: Positive Words Lead to Better Listening 

Most people are surprised to learn how words impact breathing – both yours and your listeners. Your words make listeners feel heavy or light. Remember, negative words stimulate the amygdala, and this increases fear levels. When this area is triggered, it causes a partial shutdown of the reasoning and logic centers of the brain. Like a domino effect, it causes breathing rates to shut down, too. People simply cannot hear well when they are not fully breathing! On the other hand, positive words result in normal breathing rates and therefore, better listening! Once you fine tune your ability to read breathing, you will improve your use of words during conversations.

The Negative Word Challenge!

Now you know there is a daily battle of words and negative words get more airtime during your daily communications! Of course, there is a place and time for negative words! They are a natural partner to problem solving and uncovering issues. Yet, it is crucial to increase your self-awareness and balance out your use of positive, neutral, and negative words. Business management guru, Tom Peters, once said, “Celebrate more of what you want to see in the workplace.” How leaders use language to motivate others is crucial. So the goal is to increase your self-awareness of your word choices. It can make an important difference in your professional brand and ability to contribute to teams.

You can call on Benchmark to help you and your team improve your ability to connect, influence and lead. We offer a range of leadership, communication, and reputation management services. So the next time you have a consulting, training, or coaching need contact us and let’s talk!