I love language and all it’s quirks (especially the English language, which has loads of quirks and exceptions to the rule!). And it’s even more interesting when you add the layer of complexity of how our brains process the information they send out and receive all day long.
For anyone whose livelihood relies on good communication skills (which let’s face it, unless you’re a recluse who never interacts with any other person, could be deemed as absolutely everybody on the planet) you’re probably already quite aware that what you say, let alone how you say it, can have a massive impact on how effective your relationship with your clients, colleagues or team members will be.
But did you know that whilst you may be doing your utmost to use the kind of language that engenders support, or hopefully elicits collaboration or a sale, you may actually be putting up barriers to this subconsciously by the simple use of just one word?
Going on Auto-Pilot
Our brains are busy organs! So much of their workload goes on ‘beneath the surface’, undetectable to the human eye or other senses, such as keeping our hearts beating, our lungs breathing and our muscles working to support our frames. And one of these multitude of functions is the filtering process that happens between the conscious and subconscious minds. The conscious part of the brain is what keeps us safe by looking out for unfamiliar and potentially dangerous threats to our wellbeing, whilst the subconscious mind helps us to do all these other things on auto-pilot, including reading a text on our phone whilst talking to a colleague and looking out for cars as we cross the road together.
So, the brain has to be amazingly efficient to cope with so much continual demand without imploding (because that really wouldn’t be pretty, would it!). Part of this filtering process is used in reading; did you know that once we’ve mastered learning a language, remembering every word, syllable and meaning and we become proficient at reading and listening, we begin to filter out superfluous words and only hear the key words that make sense of a sentence. And what’s one of these words that the brain just doesn’t register? NOT!
The brain doesn’t hear the negative prefixes we use in language. So whether we want to ensure people understand us properly or we’re in the process of retraining our brains to change habitual patterns of thoughts and behaviours that are no longer serving us, we need to put what we want said into the positive frame.
So for instance, how many of us use this phrase at the end of emails and letters to clients/prospects: “…if you need xxx please don’t hesitate to get in touch” – and then wonder why we don’t hear from them? By understanding how the brain works, we can see that it’s not even noticing the word ‘don’t’ and therefore reading this sentence as “….please hesitate to get in touch” – not great for opening up communication lines really, is it! Therefore a better way to write this would be something like “Please do get in touch if you need any further information” or “I’d love to help you should you have any questions” – you get my drift!
Mind your language!
Try it out for yourself – take a look at your emails, your website or marketing literature and if you notice any negative prefixes, reframe them into positive versions and see what a difference it makes! Then you can move onto your verbal communication – when you become aware of the language you use, you’ll be amazed at what you spot and the massive positive effect it can have when you make little tweaks here and there!
I’d love to hear what you notice and how you’ve got on with making those positive reframes! Leave me a comment below and let’s untie those knots by removing the nots!