Your choice of words matters. Take, for example, “any” versus “some”. The two words have different polarities.
“Any” is negatively polarized: it ordinarily occurs in declarative sentences that are negatively framed and usually inappropriate in those that are positively framed. So, it is considered grammatically correct to say “I didn’t receive any reports”, but you would be unlikely to say “I received any reports”.
By contrast, the word “some” is positively polarized: it typically occurs in positively framed declarative sentences but rarely in negatively framed ones. Therefore, it is appropriate to say “I received some reports”, but not as common to say “I didn’t receive some reports”.
Does it matter?
But so what? Does which word you use really matter? Yes. A 2007 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine had family doctors ask one of two questions of their patients during regular visits — “Is there ANYthing else you want to address in your visit today?” or “Is there SOMEthing else you want to address in your visit today?” Patients surfaced their concerns 78% more with the SOMEthing question than they did with the ANYthing question. Simply by reframing the question to a SOME form, patients felt more encouraged and were willing to raise their issues and anxieties.
Does it matter in the workplace?
Could these findings from this medical study be of value in the workplace environment? Absolutely. Whether you’re working with your staff, your co-workers, your managers, or your clients, try asking your questions using “some” rather than “any”. Instead of “Is there anything else we need to consider?”, switch to “Is there something else we need to consider?” You’ll be more likely to identify potential issues before they become larger problems. Rather than “Is there anything else I can help you with?”, ask your clients “Is there something else I can help you with?” Even if your clients have no additional requests, your positive phrasing positions you as considerate and caring.
“Any” versus “some”. I’d love to know about your experiences when you try this? Or perhaps you already have, and have observed success (or not)? Do you have other examples of word choices that offer opposing polarity? Please share your perspectives (both positive and negative) by adding your comment below.
Previously on the blog, I’ve written about another word choice – I versus We. Check out I versus We – both are powerful in different situations.