Use positive power to get the response you want
Der Ton macht die Musik. Es ist wichtig, gerade schwierige Sachverhalte und unangenehme Themen schriftlich so darzustellen, dass der Empfänger sich verstanden fühlt. So machen Sie charmante, freundliche und dennoch klare Aussagen.
Do you know the simple trick of how to find out if someone is an optimist or pessimist? Show them a glass which is half full of wine and ask them to describe it. If they say it is half full, they are an optimist; if they say it is half empty, they are a pessimist.
When we write letters we have the power to evoke positive or negative responses from our readers not by what we say but by how we say it.
Compare these sentences:
1 I have to organise my boss’s business trip before I can go home.
2 As soon as I’ve organised my boss’s business trip, I can go home.
1 We can’t let you use the conference room until the board meeting ends.
2 As soon as the board meeting is over, the room is yours.
1 We are not sure where your consignment is.
2 We are doing everything possible to trace your consignment.
Can you see the differences? All the number 1 sentences focus on the negative. All the number 2 sencences convey a feeling of hope or progress. The meaning is exactly the same in both sentences, but in the 2s, the writer is using language to create a more positive feeling.
Here are some tips on how to create a positive feeling for your reader
1 Use positive words and phrases
Make sure each message you write has one or more phrases like these:
appreciate – value – pleasure – be glad to – look forward to – benefit – thank you – take the opportunity – happy to
2 Avoid words with negative feeling
In general, try not to use any words with a negative connotation. These
hesitate – limited – late – fail to – decrease – loss – complaint – deny
Compare these sentences
1 We received your email complaining about our service.
2 Thank you for telling us about the problems you experienced with our service.
Don’t you agree that the second sentence is much friendlier and much more personal than the first?
3 Use positive action verbs
Use positive verbs like can – do –will. Avoid can’t – don’t – won’t – not and other negative constructions.
These negative constructions include, ‘Please do not hesitate to call
me’. Instead, write, ‘Please call me’.
4 Focus on what can be done rather than what cannot
Look at these sentences.
1 We cannot deliver the goods until the beginning of next month.
2 We will deliver the goods first thing next month.
1 You cannot open an account at our bank with such a small deposit.
2 You can open an account at our bank with just $100.
1 This application is not valid without a signature.
2 Sign your name to make this application valid.
In each case, the information in sentence 1 and 2 is exactly the same. But isn’t the second sentence much more positive?
5 Focus on what is, not what isn’t
Can you imagine going to a restaurant and the waiter saying, “We had some delicious tomato soup, but it’s all gone. The roast chicken was great too, but we ran out an hour ago.”
This can be very frustrating, particularly if you love tomato soup and roast chicken! A more positive statement would be “I can recommend the vegetable soup and the grilled lamb is delicious.”
No one is interested in what they might have had, they want to know what is available now.
6 Try to avoid the word but when you have written something positive
The little word ‘but’ can be a big compliment killer. Compare these two sentences:
I thought your ideas were very good, but your project plan is badly worked out.
I thought your ideas were very good. I think they could be put into practice once you’ve rethought some of the project plan.
Wouldn’t you feel slightly put out if you heard the first sentence? And wouldn’t you feel rather pleased with yourself if you heard the second, even though what it says is not really any different from the first sentence?
7 When you must say no, say it clearly
If you have to turn down a request, be direct. Look at these two replies to requests for a day off work.
I received your request to have New Year’s Eve off work. Many people have made a similar request, and it is difficult to accommodate everyone’s wishes. Please let me know which other days you wish to have off in the first quarter.
If you received this answer, would you be absolutely sure that your request had been turned down?
Not really, because it doesn’t actually say ‘no’, only that accommodating your request is difficult.
This reply, on the other hand is clear but kind and encouraging.
I am sorry that I cannot approve your request to have New Year's Eve off. Unfortunately, many people asked for that day off, and I approved their requests weeks ago. Therefore, everyone who is scheduled on that day must work. So that I can accommodate you as much as possible, please let me know right away about any other days you wish to have off in the first quarter.
YOU have the power
to create a positive experience for your reader. Use it.
And now it’s over to you
Look at these sentences. They could be addressed to your boss, a colleague, a client or a potential customer. They all have one thing in common: they are not going to make the people who read them feel very happy.
Can you rewrite them so they say the same, but at the same time show that you care and that you are taking some kind of positive action.
a) I haven’t finished typing the minutes yet. I will send them as soon as I have finished them, probably at the beginning of next week.
b) We would like to point out that hotel costs are not included in the seminar costs.
c) Klaus Krämer has asked me to pass on his regards. He thanks you for submitting your proposal, but says he is not able to use it at the moment. He will get back to you if he needs you to submit another proposal.
Now look at this list of instructions for participants at a training seminar. Can you make it friendly and positive?
1 All participants must arrive punctually for the kick-off session.
2 Absolutely no parking in front of the building.
3 Smoking is strictly prohibited on the whole premises.
4 All lights must be turned off at the end of the training sessions.
5 Please do not put used tea-bags and coffee filters in the kitchen sink.
a) I expect to have finished typing the minutes at the beginning of next week and I will send them to you straight away.
b) Costs cover the seminar, work-shops, material and refreshments. Rooms are avaiable at specialbusiness rates at Hotel Kaiserin Augusta and Hotel Römerhof.
We would be happy to give you further details or recommend other hotels.
c) On behalf of Klaus Krämer, I would like to thank you for sending in your proposal. Unfortunately, he is not able to use it at present. He will, however, be in touch as soon as he needs another proposal.
Here are some suggestions for friendlier instructions
1 The trainers will start the kick-off session off at 9 am – so don’t be late.
2 There are some parking spaces behind the building, or you mayuse the multi-storey car park behind the town hall.
3 Ashtrays are provided for smokers in front of the building and in the back yard.
4 Please help us to save energy by turning off the lights when you leave the room at the end of a training session.
5 Please put your used tea-bags and coffee filters in the bin next to the kitchen door. Thank you.