The Battle of Words: Negative Vs. Positive

Effective communicators understand the power of words to influence others. The best communicators are aware there is a daily battle of words with consequences in how their words impact others. The type of words you use triggers chemical reactions in the brain and those reactions greatly affect how people respond to you.

“The meaning of your communication is the response you get.” – Benchmark Communications

Word patterns fall into three major categories: negative, neutral or positive. And studies show there is a daily battle between these word groups – and the negative words are winning! A multi-national study shows that people use more negative than positive or neutral words each day. Across age groups, people use 50% negative words, 30% positive and 20% neutral words. 

battle of words graphic

The Top Soft Skill

Communication is one of the most valued soft skills in today’s job market, so it is a worthy investment to understand how to win in the battle of words. As we work with clients to improve how they lead and connect with others, we show them how their words impact self-esteem, confidence, understanding and many other things. The following three things are important to remember as you refine your communication skills.

1. Brain Triggers

Your words have consequences. Studies show the words you use result in the release of negative hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain. (Both yours and those listening to you.) Positive words stimulate the brain’s frontal lobes and make you feel good. On the other hand, negative words trigger increased activity in the fear center of the brain called the amygdala. When this area is triggered it causes a partial shutdown of the reasoning and logic centers of the brain.

negative words game graphic

Negative words can make people 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 and defensiveness. Negative words can trigger conflict and even lowered self-esteem in others. You make things much more difficult for your listeners when your sentences are overloaded with negative words.

“You make things more difficult for your listeners when your sentences are overloaded with negative words.”

2. Words & Listening

If you want to be a more effective communicator then your key goal is always to make things easy for your audience. They should not have to strive to understand what you saying. When you use more negative words in your sentences you are forcing listeners to work overtime to understand. This is because problem-framed words tend to express vagueness and obstacles, instead of clear solutions.

negative words graphic

Negative statements often focus on what you do not want or do not understand. This forces your listeners to “flip” what you are saying in order to decipher what you want and how to respond. Here are a few simple examples:

  • Your report is confusing VS. Your report needs to be easy to follow
  • I cannot help you without the code VS. I need the code to help you

3. Increasing Self Awareness

The hardest thing for a human to do is to hear and see themselves. This is one reason why we often use cameras during portions of our coaching sessions so people can hear themselves speaking. Many are very surprised to hear their word choices played back. People who rise through the ranks to leadership are typically highly motivated to solve problems and bring solutions to the table. Negative words are important because they are a natural partner to problem solving and uncovering issues. Yet, it is helpful for leaders to increase their self-awareness about the battle of words and balance out their use of positive 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. 

Words Create Reality

Professionals with solid communication skills are in demand because they simply add more value to teams. They motivate others to move projects forward toward goals and solve problems. You can call on Benchmark Communications to help improve your team’s communication skills and leadership skills. We have earned a reputation for delivering fun, actionable and relevant consulting services and training programs.