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As you are reading this artilce, read very carefully. Because I wouldn't want you to think of a pig right now. No, do not think of a fat, brown, smelly pig right this moment. What are you doing? Do you have a picture of a smelly, fat, brown pig in your head right now? I thought I just told you not to do that. What are you doing then?
The mind can only process positive statements directly. In order to process a negative statement, one must first create a positive representation of the negative statement in the mind. To *not* think of a pig, you first had to see a fat, brown, smelly pig. Only then could you attempt to tell yourself not to think about it. Gee, by now though you've already thought of the pig, so what good is it to tell you not to?
So how does this relate to sales and persuasion? Let's think for a moment. Have you ever said something to a prospect like this: "Don't worry about the strength of our widgets. I assure you we have the strongest widgets in the industry"? You just told the prospect that there is reason to be concerned about the strength of your widgets! This statement either planted the suggestion that there is reason to be concerned about the strength of your widgets, or it reinforced the belief that your widgets are weak. The prospect may have never even heard of the possibility that Zebox widgets are weak. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own perceptions, that we forget what its like to be an outsider new to our company, products and services. Language patterns like the above severely weaken you by needlessly drawing attention to your weaknesses.
Words to remember: "Say it the way you want it".
Are there times when negatives are useful? Sure. Let's say you want to draw your prospect's attention to the lengthy implementation effort of your competitor's product. You could say "Zebox Technologies Widgets take forever to get installed. Ours install much faster." This might work if you have a lot of rapport with the prospect. But if you are presenting to a group, or talking with someone you don't know well yet, you could annoy the prospect and lose credibility through this direct attack.
Here's a more effective indirect language pattern: "So you're also considering S Widgets? We'll don't worry about whether you can complete your project on time in 3 months. All of our widgets install in 30 days or less. Just ask our customers." Through the use of a negative, I have just raised concern about my competitor's installation time, whilst highlighting how my company meets their rapid installation time criterion. And I have avoided using a direct assault, helping to maintain rapport and respect with my prospect.
Say it the way you want it, unless a negative is just what you need.