Positive Language

Wednesday, 04 November 2015
Published in Blog

“Positive words lead to positive emotions lead to positive actions lead to positive words to positive emotions to positive actions …”

Barbara Fredrickson, David Cooperrider, Diana Whitney, Martin Seligman, et al


Words are the basic building blocks of language.  We use words to build sentences and paragraphs, ideas, and to make conversation.  Language allows us to structure and understand our own thoughts and feelings and to communicate intelligibly with others.

The words we choose reveal a lot about our attitudes and thoughts, and affect the people around us.  Our words can inspire, influence, bring hope or they can keep people down.  Our words can keep ourselves down.

We can make great strides toward living a more positive life by learning how to frame our thoughts, ideas and words in more positive terms.  To cultivate positive language, we need to think before we speak and censor ourselves, edit our written communications more carefully, and commit to being more conscious (and conscientious) about the words we use.

With a little practice, we can use our words to turn a negative into a positive.  Learn how to choose words thoughtfully, and eventually your thoughts and behaviours will become as positive as your language.


 “Individuals, teams and organisations move in the direction that they study … what is given attention grows.”

David Cooperrider

Practice a More Positive Vocabulary with Self & Others

Ø  Keep a journal in which you practice positive language through creative writing.  Spend 5 minutes a day writing about anything (make it up if you like!).  Then, go through what you have written and highlight positive words and phrases – congratulate yourself!  Look for negative words and reframe these into a more positive context.

Ø  Review everything you write.  Written communications are the simplest place to start building a core positive vocabulary because you can review and edit before you send. 

Ø  Monitor your speech.  Catch yourself using positive words – congratulate yourself!  Catch yourself using negative words, stop yourself (in mid sentence if you need to) and reframe your words into positive statements.

Ø  Think before you speak.  It sounds easy but it's actually rather difficult to put into practice.  It's perfectly acceptable to pause when it's your turn in a conversation and give yourself a moment to organise, prepare, and present your thoughts in a positive way.

Ø  Don't try to eliminate negative words from your vocabulary completely.  While working positive language into your thinking, speaking, and writing is healthy, avoiding or ignoring the negative can be a form of denial.  Acknowledge the situation or problem but flip it to what you want to achieve; to what is desired.

Ø  Practice active and constructive responding (rather than passive and constructive, or active and destructive, or passive and destructive responding).

Ø  Develop and ask positive, generative questions.  The power of questions and questioning is to open the door to new possibilities.


Adapted from the works of M Seligman, D Cooperrider, B Fredrickson, G Bushe & D Whitney; and from guest writer Melissa Donovan at www.positivelypresent.com