The Case for Positive Language

2 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2011 Last revised: 29 Nov 2011

Date Written: September 28, 2011


Language affects our feelings. When we use normative terms to describe a person or situation, we are essentially saying that they are good or bad. If it’s perceived as the latter, we might trigger an unintended fight or flight reaction that results in negativity directed toward us. Usually, we don’t want to make someone angry or defensive. We want to state our opinion or objective. When the person responds in a way that seems inappropriate, we may not realize that we started it by using language that could be perceived as judgmental. If we truly want to exact a change, we can say a situation is unworkable and explain why. That’s less offensive than saying something is wrong. We’re not judging it; we’re simply coming to a conclusion about it, which is that it doesn’t work. A positive approach opens the door for discussion, which can lead to more workability.

Keywords: distinction, language, normative, positive, communication

Suggested Citation

Dandrea, Ralph J., The Case for Positive Language (September 28, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Ralph J. Dandrea (Contact Author)

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