Active vs. Passive: Wording Matters

Photo by Anna Auza on Unsplash

For many, passive attitudes are a heck of a lot easier. Avoid stirring the pot. Refrain from creating conflict. Allow the other person to make up their own mind on their own time. 

Confusion is created. Goals become unclear. In fact, these sentences are written in the passive voice!

We sometimes don’t even realize when we write in the passive voice — it can be so natural. The passive voice is often misleading. One way that we see that play out is when we’re indirectly asking for something — a call to action. The root of passivity leads to a flourishment of poor effects.

If you build it, they will come. 

We all dream of easy solutions; we don’t aspire to hard work. What if what we think of as a straightforward request is actually a lax, unconfident ask? 

  • “Buy now”
  • “Learn more”

There isn’t anything wrong about learning about a company, however, does our email drip campaign, website, and other collateral unintentionally connote confidence you’re the right solution? Alternatively, does passive selling result in passive purchasing? Put another way, to an audience reading your content, what’s the difference between shying away from what you offer (the “buy now” option) and you not being sure of how to phrase what you offer? 

As a seller, if I’m confused about what I offer, my wording will be vague — not by my choice, but because I lack the refinement of my ideas — and customers won’t know how to proceed. Effectively, they move because of my vagueness.

So, two things to consider when you think you might want to be more direct. Wait! That’s weak and passive language there. “Consider.” “Might want.” 

Employ these messaging core principles:

  1. Know thyself. What do you offer? Why would anyone want to talk with you?
  2. Be direct. Do not gamble away opportunities. Employ active language.

We’ve used Marketing and Sales examples as backdrops, however, this can easily apply to any arena: Customer Service teams, Operations, Leadership, Customer Success, Customer Onboarding, pizza delivery, grocery store clerk, and on. 

The point is this: know what you want and communicate that. Many people want to help. However, how can they help if you don’t see what you want and if you don’t tell them?

Published by Jeff Beaumont

I love helping companies scale and grow their organizations to delight customers and employees, enabling healthy teams, fast growth, and fewer headaches. Scaling quickly is wrought with potholes and plot twists. When you’re running a company, losing customers, and employees are on their way out, and don’t have your systems running smoothly, then you’ll be at your wits' end. I've been there and hate it.

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