By Carl Carter, APR
Don’t do that.
Seriously, stop it. You’re making me mad.
Now then, what did I just tell you? Did I give you any useful information? Not a bit. And that’s why I always advocate positive communications.
It isn’t about being happy or making people feel good. It’s about information, and the fact that negatives contain hardly any of it. You walk in your front door and see a puddle on the carpet, so you whack your pup and push him out in the cold. Never mind that he was minding his own business taking a nap. So now, for all he knows, you don’t want him napping. One thing is for sure: You’re not teaching him where to pee.
Right now, we’re surrounded in negative messaging. We have people telling us what not to post on Facebook (but very few telling us how we can be more effective). We’re being warned about fake and hyperpartisan news (but not much on where we can find quality news). Social media shaming may be on the decline (or it may just be the result of my itchy finger on the “unfollow” button), but it seems there are still plenty of folks eager to pass along the latest outrage. This guy shot a pretty animal. That business refused to serve a gay couple. Somebody is fat.
None of this teaches us much.
I’m not willing to say it’s always wrong to lay down a list of “don’ts.” After all, eight of the 10 Commandments are of the “Thou shalt not” variety, and I’m not about to pick a fight with Moses. But from a communications standpoint, Jesus may have been better at offering constructive advice. The Beatitudes advise us to be merciful, make peace, and turn the other cheek. His advice to reach an agreement before getting to court could save us a lot of heartache and money, though it might be hard on the lawyers.
A negative statement tends to offer one data point, and usually, it’s something we already know. I’ve done plenty of this myself. If you dig back to 2012 on my media blog, you’ll find my “Revised, updated & gussied up social media sins.” I ranted about excessive check-ins, invitations, tags and Farmville updates. In other words, I sounded off on stuff that was bugging me at the time, but who appointed me the enforcer of online manners? Besides, most of the things I complained about went away of their own accord. Things run their course and disappear, usually without my help. In retrospect, it seems I could have written something more helpful.
So next time you’re planning to unload a bunch of negatives, try turning them on their head. Show folks ways they can save money by using your product. Teach them a skill. As one friend of mine likes to say, study success. Don’t do it to make people happy. Do it to make us all better. And I promise, you’ll come off looking better in the process.