Turn your negatives into positives!

Phrases to avoid … unless you make them work for you!

How? Here’s what you can do:

I don’t know

Question mark figure by Master isolated images (Image courtesy of Master via freedigitalphotos.net)

This can be true – that you don’t know …yet!

But the truth is that you can find out – somehow, some time, somewhere that answer will lie!

So when you use the phrase make sure you follow it up and show how useful you are to the person (your boss, your children, your friends and colleagues!)

How do you …?

“I don’t know, but it sounds like a challenge so I will go and find out and come back to you”

“I don’t know but I know someone who can help/who will!”

“I don’t know (how) yet but I will learn how I can make that work for us!”

I can’t

Hand up in defence


Image courtesy of  ambro via freedigitalphotos.org

This is similar – you can make that work for you by adding value for the other people involved.

“I can’t find that but I will work on it later today for you”

“I can’t see how – but I can look into it and see if I can make sense of it”

“I can’t make that date.  How about the following day or an hour later maybe?”

No, sorry

Self jigsaw stuart miles


Image courtesy of   Stuart Miles via freedigitalphotos.org

“No” is an assertion for you, not necessarily a negative. You don’t  need to add “sorry” into the phrase because assertively you won’t need to be sorry! Even when it’s pointing at you, it isn’t always perceived as negative!   It is more often received as honest feedback and clarity on where you can go next to get your need fulfilled!

Many people have a problem saying “No” to others, especially loved ones or people at work, and not just the boss!   The word is an under or wrong used word and for just two letters, has a lot of impact and many more connotations!

Saying “No” to someone can offer them alternatives:

  • If you can’t do it, they can look for someone who can do it
  • If you say it isn’t possible right now, maybe they can wait until you are free
  • When you use it assertively rather than bullishly then it is helpful in clarifying their options
  • It reduces your stress by removing resentment from your life, and providing you with more effective options on how to spend your time, effort and productivity perhaps!
  • …and theirs too! Rather than waiting for a promise that cannot or will not be fulfilled, they can move on and so can you.

I’m not/never good enough

Self reflection (mine)

For who are you not good enough?   And this is one especially at work so is it you… or your manager, colleagues, profession, or the job in hand (i.e. your opinion)?   And at home is it your children or partner or friends or your roles in these?

Well, the fact is that you are good enough – in some situations you are the best, in others maybe someone else is better, and yet others still you are still good enough if not the best!  Sometimes in your life and for some people (including you) you have to decide how good you need to be and sometimes realise that perfection is unachievable in most if not every situation!  And this is something lots of people feel they need to be because they have high standards, and expect nothing less than perfect from themselves (and others maybe?)

Change this one to “I don’t think I am good enough at … ” and clarify it, box it to a specific situation or outcome and allow yourself to move on and maybe learn how to do it if you want to!   And keep learning, so next time you are happy with  ‘good enough’ in various situations or those you choose to be good in!


Ask for what you want ...

This is a word that our unconscious doesn’t recognise, did you know that?   Our mind’s cannot even hear the negative.  So when you use it – and especially with  developing child whose mind work unconsciously in many areas as they ‘learn’ how to behave – this doesn’t exist – so you are asking them to do what you don’t want them to do or are warning them about!    This is the same for adults and so try to change the phrasing – say it how you want it (re NLP references).

Tell them how you want it to happen – be that a child or adult, professional or friend, or the person on the street.

“Don’t be awful!”  could turn into “Be nicer to people/to them and they will …”

“Don’t do that!”  “Try this instead of …”

“Don’t tell me, tell them!”  could be “Tell them rather than me, as I have no influence on it”

Explaining why not to do it also helps reinforce the reasoning and the motivation to make the change too.

I Won’t

not listening


Image courtesy of  ambro  via freedigitalphotos.net

This is a willful word isn’t it?   And immediately can get someone’s back up when we use it, especially children because it is willful perhaps!

“I won’t do it!”

“I won’t be there then!”

“I won’t tell you again!”

It always seems to need an exclamation mark!  Well almost always…

The tone is negative, perhaps rude depending on from whom to whom, and the underlying reason is not helpful.

“I will not be able to …” or “I won’t be able to …” is less direct and less negative, almost an apology or question in there.    It is a little more pacifying even though you are disappointing someone or refusing to do something for someone.   It depends on the reason behind it – won’t or will not, rather than cannot or can’t.  It is like “I don’t want to!” rather than “I choose not to visit”.

Communication is important, something we do every day – but whether it’s good/bad or it is effective/ineffective is the difference… and listening is as much about communication as speaking or writing is.