May 3rd, 2012 .

Never Be Negative (Not!)

Pat Morden

Confused by that double negative title? Not as confused as some corporate communicators are about the unwritten Golden Rule: “Never say anything even faintly negative.”

Recently I drafted a newsletter article in which I used the word “challenging” to describe a major project undertaken by a dedicated team within the organization. My client’s reaction was swift:  no negativity!

Leaving aside the question of whether challenging is a negative word, why are we so obsessed with painting everything – and I mean everything – in pink glitter paint?

Sometimes the story you’re telling involves people overcoming struggles or dealing with complexity. Ignoring the challenges simply discounts the achievement.

Have you ever spent a rainy day at a cottage, only to see the most glorious sunset as the sky finally begins to clear? The contrast between the grey afternoon and the splendour of the evening is what makes the moment memorable.  Similarly, contrasting where we were to where we are now makes an achievement stand out even more.

Often avoiding negativity means losing all credibility. I mean, really, who are you kidding when you pretend that everything is great all the time?

The never negative rule is especially difficult when you’re talking about making improvements. How can you improve on perfection?

Here’s one of my favourite quotations, which as you will see, uses the negative to strengthen the positive:

“Never explain, never complain. Get the thing done and let them howl.”

(That’s Canada’s own Nellie McClung, by the way.) Negative words to live by!

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