Say a Positive Word Today

We know that positive messages are easier to assimilate and understand than negative messages. You improve the effectiveness of communication when you can couch messages in positive words.

One of the ways you can use positive words regularly is to pick a superlative in response to “How are you doing today?”  Words such as “tremendous,” “marvelous,” and “super” work well. I had a friend who always responded with “Fan-TAS-tic!” My favorite word to use in response to that frequent question is “great.”

For years I had an 8:00 a.m. class with freshmen in a required course that no one wanted to take. Students rarely volunteer to take a public speaking course!  I’d walk into class on a February morning with the temperature in the twenties and three inches of snow on the ground.

A student would ask, “Dr. Boyd, how are you doing?”  I’d still try to use “Great!”  You might say I was misleading those young minds. My philosophy is that when I awake in the morning, bad breath is better than no breath at all!

I’m always looking for new positive words to use in casual conversation. This morning I ordered a cup of tea at Starbucks and said to the person who waited on me, “How are you today?”

“I’m living my dream!“ she said.  What a marvelous attitude that was! To be healthy, to be able to work, and to serve people are huge blessings. In that sense many of us can often say, “I’m living my dream.”

Empathy phrases or words are usually a positive response to a troubled or frustrated person who is complaining or relating a problem he or she is having. An empathic response is simply a non-evaluative, non-judgmental response. You don’t want to give advice or evaluate the behavior that has caused their problem. Don’t say, “That was a dumb thing to do. You should have known better,” or,in a sarcastic voice, “You poor thing! You have more problems than anyone I know.” Instead, say, “I can tell that you feel strongly about that,” or “You’ve really been dealing with challenges today.”  This affirms that you are listening and may even encourage the person to offer more information which might be most helpful in guiding you in giving an appropriate response. A sympathetic tone and eye contact are vital to show your empathy.

Using the word “and” instead of “but” is another simple way to keep the comment positive. When you are giving feedback to an employee, instead of saying, “You helped your customer see the value of the product, but next time…” say, “You helped your customer see the value of the product, and next time…”  You are now encouraging instead of criticizing.

Take a moment before speaking to think of how you might find the best way to choose positive words in your message. As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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