If you're suffering from pandemic fatigue, there's some good news. Simply changing the words you use to reframe your current situation could make you feel better and connect better with people. Positive language could help you reframe any of your business challenges from a potential disaster to a learning situation or help you find a silver lining in a series of unfortunate events.
Here are four ways I try to insert positive language in my life every day to reframe a life situation or improve communication with my team.
See the glass as half full.
How we frame an event determines if we see it affecting us positively or negatively. One way you can see the glass as half full is to practice what optimists Bert and John Jacobs of Life Is Good do: Change how you describe your activities from "have to do" to "get to do."
When you have chores or errands, you might frame it as "I have to go grocery shopping" or "I have to clean the house." "Have to" seems like a negative burden. However, not everyone has the money to go grocery shopping and not everyone has a house they can clean. Instead, try thinking of these things as "get to do." You get to shop for groceries because you can afford them and you get to clean your house because you own a home.
Another glass-half-full strategy is to look for a gain instead of a loss. James Clear, author of the bestseller Atomic Habits, suggests people use positive phrasing. For example, if you're on a diet you might be tempted to say what you are no longer eating: "I can't eat sweets, dessert, chocolate, or anything good." Instead, try to find a positive gain.
For example, you could find a positive identity such as, "I am a healthy eater." Or find the effect of more positive actions: "My body feels great now that I eat more vegetables." Focusing on the gain will make you happier (and healthier).
Use "and" instead of "but."
When communicating with colleagues, you could keep the tone positive by changing the word "but" to "and." When someone starts out with a statement like, "You're doing great work at the company," we all wait for the other shoe to drop with a "but." Then when someone hears the "but," they forget all the good things before it.
When giving feedback or praise, see if you could use the word "and" to replace "but." The word "and" doesn't negate everything before it. It only adds to the idea.
So in the same praise stated earlier, you might tell a report: "You're doing great work at the company and as you develop your writing skills more, I see you taking your communication to new heights." The report might come away feeling the praise and understanding they have an area of growth to work on, instead of feeling defeated.
Change from "should" to "could."
Another way to create positivity with your reports is to avoid the word "should" and replace it with "could." When we hear the word "should," we often feel like what follows is the final statement on the matter--or a criticism of what we have done. With "should," there doesn't seem to be any room for discussion or new ideas.
On the other hand, using "could" suggests the possibility of new ideas and a discussion of alternatives. It doesn't come off as a criticism but instead as a suggestion.
Practice gratitude each day.
Finally, a great way to improve your worldview is to practice gratitude. Gratitude is all about finding good everywhere you look. According to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life, practicing gratitude can lead to significant positive outcomes in your life.
Practicing gratitude is easy. Try writing (or saying) a full sentence that explains three things you feel grateful for each day and why you are grateful for them. This could be something like "being healthy enough to exercise in the morning," "having a loving partner who supports me," or "having a home where I can feel comfortable and safe."
It's easy to see bad things everywhere, and those things don't make us feel better. However, finding good everywhere does make you feel better. When you practice gratitude, you might find challenging days at work becoming useful lessons and a bad economy turning into opportunities.
If you want to feel better in this downturn, consider reframing your world by using more positive language. Four ways to get started are using glass-half-full language, replacing "but" with "and," inserting "could" in the place of "should," and looking for three things to be grateful for each day.