Try just taking the positive path rather than the double-negative path.
Language is such a funny thing. I have found myself paying much closer attention to what we say as I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into my coaching work. As I listen to how my clients share their stories, as I pay attention in the moment or through reflection to my own word choice, I find little ways that we use language to hold us back.
It may be subtle, but the effect is cumulative, and takes away from our potential individually or collectively.
I’ve written about one key area this is most impactful with my various articles on self-love and my favorite exercise, “Stop the But”. We use language to downplay, dismiss or, in the extreme cases, destroy our sense of our own capability and self-worth.
But we use language more subtly that adds negativity to the conversation where it needn’t be there. When we are debating or discussing things with people where differing opinions are going around, when we find something that aligns in some way to what we think, we hesitate to say we agree, as if that’s too strong. Instead, we say things like, “I don’t disagree.” That is a double-negative that actually just means “I agree.”
Well, I say, “Don’t don’t disagree.”
The thing about agreement is that it’s binary. You either agree or you don’t. Yes, there can be degrees of agreement or disagreement. And you might be thinking, “Wait, just because I don’t disagree with someone, doesn’t mean I agree with them.”
Yes, it actually does. Or, more accurately, if you don’t agree, you actually disagree. If you don’t believe in the statement they’re making, then, by definition, you are disagreeing with it. You may not be fighting against it or vehemently disagreeing, but if you don’t agree, then you are disagreeing.
And, by extension, if you don’t disagree, then you are agreeing. So why not just say it?
Instead, we hold back from saying the affirmative, positive thing we actually mean. And in the process, we add negativity to the conversation (don’t and disagree are both negative words) where we could have added positivity.
So why does it even matter?
Well, as I talk about in my book The 50 75 100 Solution (and which I’ve spoken about in this TEDx), what we put out into the discussion becomes the basis for the other party’s reactions. This is how we have sway over their role in any relationship issue. When we put better stuff out into the equation through non-combative, positive, supportive words and actions, we are more likely to bring the other person’s angst level down, and turn difficult relationships into healthy (or at least healthier) ones.
When we use negative words, even double-negatives like “don’t disagree”, we give up one of those chances to influence the other person to help move the relationship to a better place. If you are in a debate with someone, that really starts to matter as getting them to step down from a heightened or difficult situation is more likely to get to a resolution that benefits you.
So next time you agree with someone, even if it’s someone you don’t generally see eye to eye with, agree with them. Don’t don’t disagree with them.
This article is inspired by my book, The 50 75 100 Solution: Build Better Relationships, available in print, ebook and audiobook at www.5075100.com or at your favorite book sellers.