How You Say It Matters

“Remember the meeting time.”

“Don’t forget the meeting time.”

Do both of those say the same thing? Not as far as your brain is concerned.

Positive Why?

The brain doesn’t register the negative. So if you use the negative sentence “Don’t forget the meeting time,” your brain is ignoring the “don’t” and hearing the statement “forget the meeting time.”

If you use the positive sentence, “Remember the meeting time,” you’ll have a much better chance of seeing your participants show up on schedule.

The mind wants direction, not a sense of “lack.” That’s why it’s important to pay attention to how you say things. If I tell you that something is “not very expensive” you’ll focus on “expensive.”

Try these:

  • “New” vs. “Untried”
  • “By 5 O’clock” vs. “By the end of the day”
  • “Economical” vs. “Inexpensive”

Note: This is how improvement efforts often get bogged down at the outset.

“I want us to make fewer mistakes” translates differently than, “I want to increase the accuracy of our customer service solutions by 30% before November 30.”


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Steve has designed and delivered leadership and communication programs for some of the world's largest organizations, and has more than 30 years in training, development, and high-level executive coaching. His Roesler Group has created and delivered leadership and talent development internationally for corporations such as Pfizer, Minerals Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, NordCarb Oy Ab, and Specialty Minerals--Europe. Steve is currently involved in the latest update of his Presenting With Impact program, a cross-cultural presentations workshop that has been delivered on five continents to more than 1,000 participants representing nearly 60 nationalities.

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