Merge's Blog

Focus on what you want, rather than what you don’t want

It’s a workplace reality that you have to count on others to get things done; you simply can’t do everything yourself!  Which is why I always inwardly cringe when I hear people say or do things that reduce the likelihood of others following through on their requests.  In the past, I have blogged about the ineffectiveness of ordering instead of asking, and the importance of telling others why.  Today, I want to highlight the importance of emphasizing what you want, rather than what you don’t want.  Compare these two examples.

A manager says to his assistant — “Laurie, I’ve left you a copy of my notes from the afternoon’s meeting.  Please transcribe them right away and make sure that there are no typos in the final document.”

Or he says — “Laurie, I’ve left you a copy of my notes from the afternoon’s meeting.  Please have them transcribed and proofread right away”

Do you see the difference? The first version tells Laurie what he doesn’t want – typos.  But the second version tells Laurie what he really wants – a document that’s been proofread.  It may seem like a very small difference – and it is – but the impact is powerful.  Because the second version focuses on the positive, it is much more likely to get the outcome that the manager desires.

Choice of words is SO important.  Yet so many people don’t get it!  Why is that?  Any insights appreciated!

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