Don't Miss It! (How Negatives Build Rapport and Engagement)

I used the phrases "Don't Miss It"  and " Don't start" in an ad, and someone made a comment about my "interesting" language. I don't know for sure that what interested that person was the use of negatives, but it made me think about the way people get hung up on a formula for what they should or should not say.

Once someone challenged me on the use of the word 'problem.' He felt that it was inappropriate in the work I was doing. I felt it was inappropriate to tell people that the things that troubled them were not problems or to hide from problems or to overlook them.

In fact, "negatives" can be a strong opening. We all know that: it's not an unusual strategy to catch people's attention with a warning or to motivate people by giving them a problem to solve. They are strong because they connect with people where they live: that ad was written to catch the attention of the people who were so tired of their baggage and mistakes, they would be ready to make a change.

"Don't miss it" is particularly interesting because it is a double negative. You have to see something you want, then miss it, then decide not to miss it. It's a lot of work to decode three short words. I used them because they were also a pretty exact fit for the people whose attention I wanted: they are the people who suspect that there's something they want but are prepared to put it off. . . unless someone calls them to take another look.

So yes, I think my language was interesting (I almost always find language interesting). Language is an expression of a mind/brain/body system that is so rich and complex that it's hard to comprehend. I won't give up any of it: I think it all does the work we need it to do some of the time. The trick is in knowing what connection you want to make and then choosing from the whole of the toolkit so that you have the best words for what you want to do with them.

And I do like encouraging people to catch something sliding by and slow it down so they can take another look.


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