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Positive Words Positive Language

Scottish English

A number of years ago we noticed a concerning pattern in the media interviews and presentations we saw in Scotland.

People were using “Scottish English”.

They were “trying” and “doing their best”.

They were “hoping” to see positive outcomes.

All of this was undermining their position, so we decided to offer alternatives.

What is Scottish English?

Positive Words Positive LanguageAny time you undermine your own position by introducing doubt.

Here’s a useful checklist:

I think
Sort of

There are hundreds.

Identifying them holds the key to building trust, instilling confidence and boosting productivity.

Why do we undermine ourselves?

There are a number of theories.

Many point to Calvinism.

It swept into Scotland and removed the comfy seats from the pews

It took down the paintings on the walls and told us we’d suffer for our sins.

450 years later, even though far fewer of us attend church, we’re left with the downward pressure of not showing off:

“Don’t get stuck in the door on the way out”

“Stop blowing your own trumpet”.

Others point towards England or the USA, saying:

“We don’t want to sound like them”.

Others say it’s a humility, a respect and a modesty that endears us towards others.

I agree entirely.

The trouble comes when our cultural upbringing prevents us from convincing others of our point.

Building trust

Scottish EnglishIn 1985 the Norwegian shipping magnate Arne Ness Jr. married one of the most female artists in the world, Diana Ross.

At the altar he was asked:

“Will you love and honour this woman ’til death do you part?”

His answer came back:

“Well I’ll certainly try”.

He was unsure why the media reacted to the wedding by casting doubt over their future.

They later divorced.

Instilling confidence

Scottish EnglishWhen Andy Murray lost the 2015 Australian Open, he told the Rod Laver arena:

“Hopefully I’ll try and come back next year and do slightly better”.

What does that mean?

Lose 3 sets to 2 rather than 3-1?

Make it to the airport then turn back?

Introducing these words can have an extremely negative effect on the audience’s confidence.

He lost in the final again 12 months later, 3-0.

Increasing productivity

Scottish English

Imagine you’re hosting a party tonight.

Three of your friends send you texts saying the following:

“I’m hoping to come at some point tonight”

“Maybe see you later!”

“I’ll try and make it…”

It gives you a problem.

How much food do you buy? What type of alcohol?

I’d suggest they’re all staying at home.

You have same problem when someone emails you saying:

“I’ll try and have that to you by the end of the week”.

It’s so vague that you’re unable to plan.

So even if it does come in on Friday, you’re only going to be able to deal with it the next week.

It would be so much better if that person committed to have it to you by the following Monday instead.

You can now plan that it.

It boosts your productivity rather than having you wait around.

Words of commitment

Scottish English
So what should you do?

Give certainty.

And when you’re unable to commit to an outcome, commit to the process.

“I’m waiting on more information before I get back to you. I’ll call you tomorrow afternoon with an update”.

Use words of commitment to describe your values:

“I’m totally committed”

“Absolutely determined”

“I firmly believe”

Language of leadership

Scottish English
We call this the Language of Leadership.

True leaders will make commitments and stick to them.

Where they are pressed on an opinion, they’ll offer it confidently.

And in doing so, they build trust, instil confidence and increase the productivity of those around them.


Andrew McFarlan is the Managing Director of Pink Elephant Communications.

You can view his profile here.


Dreamtime/Pexels  ID 67430042 © Zhukovsky ID 96264904 © Matthew Kay


22nd November 2018 Featured in: Blog By:

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  • Keith Emery

    Love this Andrew as ‘weasels words’ are my ‘pet hate’. On a Saturday night after the football highlights, be it Scottish or English matches, every Manager/Coach will use the word ‘hopefully’ in their after match interview or press conference. Even our own son Alec Ferguson was ‘guilty as charged’!
    I would add, now many of the purely Scottish words and phrases are used as commonplace by the English. Words like ‘minging’, ‘what’s for you will not go past you (English wording)’, ‘he’s up to high doh’, ‘ Are you having the ‘flu’ jag?’, ‘it’s doing my head in!’, ‘I’ll be there just now’ and so one.

    • Andrew McFarlan

      Hi Keith. Agree entirely! We have used various Scottish football and rugby managers in the past to demonstarte Scottish English. But only need to look to the current Scotland rugby coach to see a different approach. Thanks for your comments!

  • Listen to Michael Cheika’s interview on BBC One after yesterday’s defeat by England, if you want to hear real commitment, determination and jaw-dropping confidence in the future. Cynics would say it was arrogant; but I’d say it was inspiring. If I was Australian, I’d be right behind him and already almost have forgotten we got whipped!

    • Andrew McFarlan

      Thanks for your comment Tom. I’ll need to listen to that this evening. Words of commitment are often dismissed as arrogant by those too fearful to stand up and use them!

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