Sometimes the difference between a positive and a negative statement is as simple as our choice of words. Gary Smalley in his book Secrets to Lasting Love: Uncovering the Keys to Life-Long Intimacy creates a positive reframe of negative expressions. While he intended to use this insight with married couples, the fact is that positive interpretations can be very important in reshaping and even motivating people as a general rule. Next time, before you state a person’s negative trait, consider the following list of alternative, positive statements:
NEGATIVE TRAIT POSITIVE PERCEPTION
Nosy Overly alert or sociable
Touchy Very Sensitive
Manipulating A resourceful person with creative ideas
Talkative Expressive or Dynamic
Flighty Enthusiastic with Cheerful Vitality
Too Serious Sincere and earnest with strong convictions
Too Bold Strong convictions, uncompromising, high personal standards
Rigid Well disciplined with strong convictions
Overbearing Confident; sure of him/her self
A Dreamer Creative and Imaginative
Too Fussy Organized and Efficient
Being thoughtful about how we say things tells another person that they are important, that you respect their trait…even though it may drive you crazy sometimes… and that you appreciate how their trait complements your own. Conversely, focusing on the negative traits with out putting in the effort to say it in a positive way tells the other person that they are not important, that you do not respect their trait and that you do not appreciate their different perspective.
It takes only a little imagination to deduce which approach produces the better effect in the end. If you want to discourage another person, make frequent observations about their negative trait. To encourage them, consider the alternative of letting their trait inspire positive, creative observations that emphasize the positive qualities of their trait.
*Smalley, Gary. Secrets to Lasting Love: Uncovering the Keys to Life-Long Intimacy, 2000, pp. 156-157.