It’s not what you say, but how you say it

In today’s stressful life, perhaps ‘positivity’ is the most important core value that we need to embrace – be it at the workplace or in personal life.  It brings inner peace, success, improved relationships, better health, happiness and satisfaction. Positive attitude and positive communication are the best ways to internally support ourselves and to support others. It enables inculcating trust and collaboration – which are the cornerstones of creating a mentally healthy environment in personal life as well as at the workplace.

There is an old saying, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. This quote describes the essence of positive communication. It not only leaves a good impression on other’s mind, it also boosts healthier connection among each other. Moreover, it inspires people to achieve greater good and to act selflessly.

While effective communication focuses on results, good communication focuses on things like empathy and relationships. In most cases we focus on effective communication ignoring positive communication since outcome is the key at workplace. Nevertheless, positive communication makes it easy to have effective communications. It is said that, “if you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend”. Indeed, it focuses on the importance of building good relationships via pro-active actions.


Why positive communication is important at the workplace?

Practicing positive communication in everyday life involves practicing empathy, fostering understanding, and communicating with compassion. Not only in personal life, it is also crucial to foster positive communication at the workplace since it can make the communication effective, can inculcate mutual respect, reduce workplace conflict and can thus can enhance work productivity.

Effective communicationPositive communication improves communication effectiveness, by clearly expressing thought, feeling, needs without aggression or manipulation.

Promote mutual respect and form effective collaborationClear and positive communication among team members foster a conducive environment for sharing ideas, builds trust and provide clarity which help working towards common goals.

Conflict resolution and preventionPositive communication technique helps to transform potential conflicts into peaceful dialogues. This approach encourages to address the issue by focusing on the needs rather than blaming each other.

Improve productivityIt makes all parties involved feel connected to their work and have a clear understanding of what is expected of them which helps to be productive and perform efficiently.

It is needless to say that, there are numerous benefits of positive communication beyond of the above mentioned ones.

Ways to practice positive communication

There are many ways to foster positive communication. There are many other aspects that can serve as the guiding principles when we communicate with our colleagues or students at the workplace. Some of the principles and techniques to practice positive communication are briefly discussed below.

About the author

Ms Goh Yee Ling is a senior physiotherapist at WELL Rehab Physiotherapy Centre, Seri Kembangan, Malaysia. Her specialization in musculoskeletal dysfunction and work-related injury. She is passionate about human connection and have strong believe in the power of positive communication during her therapy session with patients. She is aspired to disseminate the health-wellness knowledge among greater population.

About the author

Dr Farzana Quoquab is an Associate Professor at Azman Hashim International Business School, UTM. She is an active researcher and expert in green and sustainability marketing related issues. For more information about her research and publications, visit:

About the author

Dr. Haliyana Khalid is an Associate Professor at Azman Hashim International Business School, UTM. She obtained her PhD in Computing, with specialization in Human Computer Interaction from Lancaster University, UK.  Her publication ranges from information systems to social media marketing. For more information about her research and publications, visit:    

About the author

Dr. Teo Poh Chuin joined the Azman Hashim International Business School (AHIBS), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) as a Senior Lecturer in 2019.  Her research expertise include marketing, consumer behaviour, branding, international business and sustainable consumption. For more information about her research and publications, visit:

Observation without judgement – It is important to observe and analyze the facts rather than interpreting or evaluating with own assumption. While discussing a situation, we can stick to observing facts instead of blaming or accusing others. Be mindful of judgement, criticism, or assumptions. For instance, rather than saying, “you never listen to me,” we can focus on describing the specific behavior as “I noticed that during our conversation yesterday, I didn’t feel heard.” We need to be mindful about the choice of words used during conversation, such as “always” and “never” which often provoke defensiveness rather than compassion. When we use such words, others tend to be defensive and resist what is being said to them.

Taking responsibility for our own feelings – In any complicated or unpleasant situation, we need to acknowledge our own role and take responsibility for our feelings. We need to adopt the art of expressing feelings to convey our emotions without blaming others.  By clearly expressing our feelings, we can connect more easily with one another and can help resolve conflicts.

Understanding the needsIt is important to connect feelings with needs. Understanding the underlying needs behind our feelings can help to strategize our communication. Ask yourself what fundamental needs are not being met and express them. For example, if we are to receive any clear workflow or work plan from any team member, we can express our needs saying, “I need more clarity on our project timeline to feel reassured.” In this way, the need of the action (request) is being communicated.

Compliment to affect others’ sense of self Complimenting is one behavior among many that illustrates our capacity for affecting people in a positive way. Research shows that complement makes people work better.

Active listening & empathyIt is crucial to listen attentively to understand, validate and respect other’s observations, feelings, needs and requests without judgement. It is also important to be fully present mentally during interaction. Besides, showing genuine curiosity about other’s perspectives and feelings may foster understanding and connection between each other.

The take-home message

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for effect communication. It is a blend of active listening, empathy, patience, positive feedback, and the like. The goal of positive communication is to create a space for understanding, connection and collaboration. It requires consistent practice, self-awareness, self-reflection and commitment to communicate in a way that prioritizes mutual understanding and respect.

Expressing emotions and feelings pro-actively can enable us to receive positive feedback and foster respect and trust among each other. It may gradually remove the negativity and fostering empathy, understanding and form healthier connections in our relationships, whether at home, work, or in the community. In any industry, where the human connection is at the core, mastering such positive communication skills is fundamental to deliver high quality services.

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