Few people know that when you encounter a problem without a solution, the best way to deal with it is to think about it in another language. When you use another language, your thinking patterns are different to how you contemplate problems in your mother tongue. But whatever your mother tongue is, think about it as three separate languages: The way you speak when you’re positive, negative, and neutral.
Whenever you’re in one of these states of mind, your thinking and speaking patterns differ. This led experts to name these three language variations Positivese, Negativese, and Neutralese. These all have their time and place, but do you know when to use each one? Here are eight tips that’ll teach you when to use which language.
1. Acknowledge That You Speak in 3 Languages
Just like everyone else, your vocabulary is different when you’re praising someone, criticizing them, or are ambivalent towards them. Acknowledge that you react differently in every situation, and use different vocabulary to convey messages depending on the situation. We all do this subconsciously, but try to be aware when it's happening. Once you understand that the language you use affects your decisions or the message you try to convey to others, you’ll be able to adjust it to work for you.
2. Don’t Try to Ignore the Negativese
People might tell you that being negative is a bad thing, and only dishonest people will claim they don’t have an ounce of negativity in them. These people will tell you that if you practice enough, you’ll stop being negative, and that this is what you’re supposed to do, because there’s no reason to stay in that state of mind. This attitude is flawed because it is impossible to completely avoid negative feelings. We all experience them and at times they can even be useful. The question is not whether you allow negativity into your life, but rather when and why.
Many a time you think you’re being neutral, but still express negative emotions. This usually happens by saying things like “I don’t mean to be negative, but…”, as if by declaring you’re not being negative you convince yourself that is how you really feel. When you avoid negative feelings and negative language, you end up lying to yourself – a prime example of not knowing what language you’re truly speaking.
Accept negative emotions and don’t suppress them, because you have to be in touch with your emotions to be able to convey a specific message. No matter how you phrase it, whatever you have to say will be negative, so at least be honest with yourself.
3. Don’t Pretend You’re Neutral When You Aren’t
People often pretend that they’re neutral observers, and this is easy to understand. Being objective gives you power - lawyers are paid to take one side or the other, while judges are impartial, and that’s why they have the final say in legal matters. Pretending to be neutral makes you feel like you get the final say in a matter, but you're not a judge or jury, and the person you’re talking to is not (usually) a lawyer. They’re not paid to side one way or another. If you support your own argument sensibly, the other person should be inclined to listen to it, whether they agree with it or not.
4. Use Neutralese Wisely
As a rule of thumb, when you decide to use neutralese, immediately try change your thinking and speaking into positivese to strengthen your decision, and negativese to rule out alternative options. Once you’ve explored these fields of thought, go back to neutralese.
This is the best way to come to an educated decision that focuses on your aspirations. After weighing up all the alternatives, you’re left with the best choice of action for you.
5. Use the “Carrot and Stick” Method Correctly
When you try to motivate others, you often use the carrot and the stick method – reward and punishment. Both are effective, but they can also backfire. While rewards encourage action, it also encourages complacency. This is why teachers don’t tell their students that they’ll all get A’s by the end of the year. Sure, it can give students the confidence to try without the fear of failing, but they can also think “why try harder? I’m going to succeed anyway.” On the other hand, punishments can deter, paralyze, and even create resentment, which is why teachers also won’t say “I’ll give everyone here, except for the top-5 students an F". This can cause students to think that “I’m not good enough, so I might as well quit.”
The punishment and reward method can be used to motivate, but it can also have the opposite effect, so be careful when you use it. When you want to reward someone, use positivese, and like any other reward – it should be given after the task has been completed, and done well. If you need to dispense a punishment, use negativese, but only after the fact. Up to that point, use neutral language.
6. Be Careful Not to Jump Between Positivese and Negativese
When you try and motivate someone, you need to create the correct combination of positive, negative, and neutral languages. If you start with the positive language (“Well done, I see you’ve improved!”) it may lead to complacency. Alternatively, you can try negativese (“This is not as good as what you’ve done before”) but if it leads to fear or resentment, you’ll go back to positivese. If you use this back and forth method with children, telling them they’re doing well, only to then give them a negative response when they become complacent, you’ll confuse them and probably hear “But you said I was doing better”.
Try stick to one approach, both when you’re being positive or negative. If you choose positive reinforcements, continue giving them unless the improvement stops. If that happens, don’t automatically go with the negative approach, but rather stick to the neutral one. If you use the negative approach from the get-go, stick to it and use the neutral approach when the negative is not needed. If you see that after a while your approach isn’t working – it may be time to change it.
7. You Build Your Own Maze Walls
Think of life as running through a maze you have been creating. When you try and motivate yourself, negativity appears as the walls that block the way, while positivity is the paths that lead you to your goals. If you can’t decide if your path is the right one, or has a dead end, try being neutral with yourself.
Don’t try think there are no walls, and that you can go wherever you want, because you’ll end up wandering around, lost and confused. There are always paths that are better than the others, to find them, you have to accept the fact that the walls exist and you just need to navigate them correctly.
Sometimes, using negative language to erect walls and push yourself in the right way works, but if you use it too often, you’ll find that you’ve walled off all of your paths and you become stuck. If you’re at that place, feeling stuck, turn to the neutral language. Neutralese will lead you around the maze and give you a better understanding of the path you’re on: “What is it that I truly want to do? Which choices will lead to dead ends? Which path is the one I should be walking?” Once you’ve realized what you want to do and where you wish to go, go back to being positive and let it carry you forward.
8. Get to Know the Vocabulary of Each Language
Any word in neutralese can be translated into positivese or negativese. When you stick to your decisions, in positivese it translates to commitment and perseverance. In negativese it translates to stubbornness and nay-saying. Similarly, changing your mind will translate to “flexibility” in the positive, and “indecisiveness” in the negative language.
The more you understand the volcabulary of each language, the better you can control your decisions. It will make you more resilient to people who try to discourage you with opposing opinions. Once you know your reasons for what it is that you’re doing, you can be at peace with your decisions, but can remain open enough to accept criticism.
As you see, every language is basically comprised of 3 variations, which we all use every day without even being aware of it. Learn to differentiate between the languages you speak when you’re trying to make a decision or trying to influence another person. You may have been doing it for years without realizing it, but now that you have the tools to understand it, you’ll finally be able to achieve your goals.