The words "kindness is magic" are shown above a finger pressing a button. Kindness works in workplace communication.

There’s an old saying that “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” I wish that political parties would bear this advice in mind when they create their so-called “attack ads,” we, Canadians, have been subjected to lately, as they ramp up to a federal election. Negative campaign ads often strike me as mean-spirited and counter-productive. And they certainly won’t influence my vote!

Yet, there are times, but not always, when negative campaigning does work, as a recent national newspaper article, Three Myths About Negative Campaign Ads, points out. But, negative campaign ads can also backfire. One example is the 1993 attack ad making fun of former Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s speech impediment.

In business though, negativity is always detrimental. Wikipedia’s entry on negative messages pretty much sums it up. “In the business world, [negative messages create] delivery and calculation errors, product malfunctions, [and] refusal of routine requests…”

No businessperson wants a loss of productivity, unhappy clients, and ineffective employees. So in business, we can all benefit from the following three tips aimed at ensuring more positive communication:

Three Tips to Make Your Workplace Communication More Positive


  1. Be Kind: Sometimes, in today’s multi-tasking, always-wired world, people are too focused on trying to get everything done, instead of taking that extra moment to be kind. Yet, the fundamental human response to being treated with kindness is to respond positively. It’s a two-way street. Put yourself in the receiver’s shoes when you are communicating. It’s likely that your kindness will be reciprocated.
  2. Be Cool: When you’re on the receiving end of a negative message — negative emails, angry voice mails, etc. —think before you respond. Take time to prepare what you want to say. Being rational and calm may just help the other person to “take it down a notch.” A more reasonable, positive communication can move the situation forward in a way that benefits both parties.
  3. Be Thoughtful: We all make choices throughout our day. One of the most important choices we make is “the words we use.” A thoughtful word choice can make the difference between a negative message that upsets its recipient, and a positive message that has the opposite effect. So, choose your words thoughtfully and carefully. They may come back to bite you!

I realize, of course, in business it is impossible to totally avoid having to deliver negative messages. Nevertheless, we can deliver our messages in a kind, calm, and thoughtful way. You don’t need to sugar coat a challenging or difficult message. However, it is possible to frame it with some positive words, or by saying something kind, before getting to the tough stuff. The intent isn’t just to create a buffer before presenting bad news; it’s also a way of being genuinely sensitive to the person, on the receiving end. Of course, if you are running for political office, instead of working in an office, you may think differently.

Let us know at how sending a positive, instead of a negative message, worked well for you. To learn how to craft positive messages when you’re challenged, try our business email writing course

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