Keeping the Work Positive

Keeping the Work Positive

Once upon a time two scouts were sent to a remote area of Africa to determine the potential market for a shoe company. The first scout returned completely defeated, saying: Situation hopeless, no one wears shoes. The second scout returned after seeing the same circumstances and reported: Glorious business opportunity, they have no shoes.

Which story best describes how you or your organization might see it?

When you think about the issues you are working on can you see a positive outcome or does it all seem hopeless? Amazingly, how we see it can actually help to influence the outcome. A group that is seen as successful and positive will often gather more volunteers and contributions. One of the most effective ways to enhance the positive is to consider the language that you use.

By using positive words to describe your work you give optimism to the effort. Instead of being against something, try to identify what you are fighting for, such as clean water, habitat for fish, or healthy wetlands. For example, the Niagara River Property Owner’s Association (story of their success on page one) focused on saving a Provincially Significant Wetland with globally rare and endangered forests for their community rather than focusing on stopping or fighting a golf course development.

As Andrew Slade, formerly with Sugarloaf: The North Shore Stewardship Association, stated “You can’t just be against everything, you have to be for something.” Using this idea can be a great exercise for a board or a committee. Take a few minutes to generate a list of the positive words that best describe what your group is trying to accomplish. Then use this list when you talk about your project to your friends, the media, or community leaders.



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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.