Many years ago, the office where I worked brought in a communications consultant that the CEO had met at a cocktail party to work with all the employees of the company. We had a number of regional offices that needed to coordinate effectively with other remote offices.
We learned a lot of really great things from the consultant, a kind older woman who had her own practice based in South Carolina. But she taught us one trick that i will never forget:
“Instead of but, use and…”
“But” implies a negative or corrective train of thought, whereas “and” opens the doors for new possibilities. Or something.
Unfortunately, everyone, including senior management, really grabbed a hold of “and,” and started using it all the time. In fact, we would get emails with the word “and” in all caps, in red, underlined. It became an even more aggressive and negative word than a simple “but” even was.
In my current assignment, we are a small office that emails a lot, and I find that most emails I get have a “smiley face” emoticon (either an actual emoticon or a tiny .gif) included in them. This serves the same function as “AND.” Let me tell you, it does not work. Especially when I have made a mistake that you are correcting.
Email is a difficult medium. It is hard to find the right tone, and the words remain forever (and ever and ever). It’s not the ephemeral phone call. But honestly, positive language is not positive if it is used so aggressively. And besides, crafting an email should be more like writing a letter than sending a text message, right?