Half full: how to write with optimism
We have to say arigato to Japan. The Tokyo Olympic Games were a beacon of joy in a year darkened by the pandemic. Even the ad breaks glowed with positivity.
Nike and Cannon made hopeful predictions. The International Olympic Committee looked back on a century of progress. And Uber and Google were the most optimistic of all. They saw potential in the present moment.
Uber’s TV spot showed a family celebrating a birthday after a year’s delay. ‘Go anywhere,’ it said. ‘Go get it.’ Google invited viewers to ‘Start again’: schools, friendships, romance and adventure were waiting.
Yes, advertisers have returned to their usual optimistic selves. They know it, quite literally, pays to be positive. Customers will spend money with any brand that can legitimately promise a better tomorrow.
And optimism can work wonders for you, too. Show people the silver lining and they can’t help but like you. It’s science!* So, if you’re asking for a favour, pump up the positivity in your writing.
That doesn’t mean aping the style of these ads. Google and Uber’s imperative verbs make the brands sound like highly motivational life coaches. Perfect for taglines, but the same commands would sound bossy in an email.
So, how can you infuse your writing with gentle rays of sunshine?
For quick jolts of joy
- Avoid absolutes
While pessimists deal in absolutes, optimists see more possibilities. They use ‘often’ and ‘sometimes’ instead of ‘never’ and ‘always’.
- Use adventurous adjectives
Describing something as ‘good’ or ‘great’ won’t cut it. They’re lazy claims that could be used in any context. Genuine compliments are specific. For instance, ‘The TED talk was unforgettable; real insects were released into the audience.’
- Point to the good
Use positive language even when you’re having difficult conversations. For example, when optimists want to change someone’s behaviour, they say, ‘I like it when you X’ rather than ‘Don’t do Z’.
For sustained sunniness
Unsurprisingly, the best way to write with optimism consistently is to actually feel it.
The attitude comes naturally to most,** but there’s hope for even the most miserable scribbler. A study in the Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry found it’s possible to change your mindset with a simple exercise.***
For five minutes each day, imagine your best possible self. This usually means writing a description of a bright future, a future in which you have found personal and professional success.
Within a couple of weeks, you’ll start becoming more optimistic. And, as your mindset changes, so will your emails. Quite a result for an hour or so of journaling.
Changing a brand’s tone of voice is a tricker business. It takes time and planning, but we know it can be done. In fact, we’re positive.