The section on positivity showed us that framing our communication positively was more likely to create positive internal representations in the people we communicate with and thus to lead them toward our desired outcome for the communication.
What we must also remember is that negatives, when used with volition, can be equally useful and often more elegant and subtly influential in achieving the same results, with little or no resistance from the person we are communicating with.
Now I'm not saying that negatives are a magical tool for influencing others towards your way of thinking, because you must find out how useful they are for yourself. Afterall, you wouldn't want to just take my word for it, would you?
As an illustrative example let's consider a teacher and student scenario - which of the following statements spoken by the teacher to the student is most likely to assist the student in doing well in the test?
- This test is going to be difficult but just try to focus and do your best.
- Whilst I wouldn't suggest this test will be easy for you I know you've studied hard and you have all the knowledge to do well.
I wouldn't say that we can choose with certainty which one would work best but I'd put my money on the second one.
In the first example the teacher tries to motivate the student by telling him that the test will be difficult. This student may respond well to this type of 'away-from' motivation and sharpen his focus. On the other hand the internal representation he may generate from this statement is 'this test will be difficult for you because you're not up to it'. (Remember - the meaning of your communication is the response that you get).
In the first example the teacher also tells the student to try to focus and do his best, which again implies that he will fail or at least not be entirely successful.
In the second example just in the phrase '...I wouldn't suggest this test will be easy for you' alone there are multiple messages expressed and implied - let's consider just a few of them:-
- The teacher is actually indicating that the test has been set at a level which will provide a worthwhile measure of the hard work that they've both put in and the learning that has taken place.
- The teacher is indicating that he is aware of the match between the level of the test and the level of the student's knowledge.
- Whilst the teacher isn't suggesting that the test will be easy for this particular student, the student will have to imagine the test being easy just to make sense of the statement '...this test will be easy for you'.
- The teacher reinforces belief in the student's abilities with the phrase '...you have all the knowledge to do well'. This phrasing reinforces to the student that he has the tools to do the job.
If the teacher also marks out the key phrases verbally i.e. with a lowered voice tone, those are the phrases that the student's unconscious mind will place most emphasis on - this test will be easy for you....you have all the knowledge to do well.
And whilst I don't know if it's important, I have noticed another interesting aspect to utilising negatives that could be very useful.
If I begin my communication with a negative, i.e. by telling you what I'm not saying or what I'm not thinking or what I'm not going to do, you may find that you actually pay more attention consciously to what I am saying or thinking or to what I am going to do.
But it probably isn't important or even that useful, is it?