Know “No’s Rule”

Have you ever wondered the reason your message seemed to baffle team members or seemed to fall on deaf ears? Notwithstanding a host of reasons these situations may occur, one interesting cause may be your use of negatively situated wording.

Organizational leaders, especially those who are a part of leading DEI(JAB) Initiatives – as we call it in the Sancho Education Group family – are often surrounded with the notion that team members are diverse, both in their surface qualities and deeply held ideas and values. Due to our experiences, we each have personal triggers that are activated by mere words. Suppose unbeknownst to a leader, he/she/they happen(s) to say a word that activates a trigger for a person with a “hidden diversity;” instantly, communication may be compromised. One type of hidden diversity could be that the person identifies as neurodiverse. Listen to our 2-minute blog on types of diversity.

Neurodiversity can include a variety of neurological conditions that may cause individuals to have mild to severe impairments, such as dyslexia, autism, and attention deficit disorder (ADD). Likewise, there may be vision impairments and mental disorders that the team member chooses to keep to themselves for their own purposes. For this reason, organizational leaders can strive to exercise inclusive leadership & practices. This style of leadership can give leaders the edge needed to communicate more effectively in the workplace.

Regardless of whether a person is considered neurodiverse, negatively situated words can cause one to react simply because the words are typically associated with depleting actions or rejection. Momentarily, someone’s attention may be blocked at the mere mention of one of these words as his/her/their mind automatically prepares to experience ejection, loss, or some other facet of deflation. At this moment, you may see a quick stare into space or disconnection in eye contact. Uh-oh…

How often do you use the words below in conversation with family? Co-workers?

No, won’t, can’t, don’t, wouldn’t, never, nothing, shouldn’t, couldn’t, none, nada, but, however, unfortunately??

Active avoidance of these negatively situated words is similar to “controlled processing” for those trying to form new ideas to counter, undesired, automatic processing in the brain. It may prove difficult initially, however, in time you will master avoidance of these words with useful wordplay – especially when speaking to unfamiliar individuals, neurodiverse individuals, persons with mental health disorders with potential triggers, and law enforcement officials/officers. Organizational leaders and customer service representatives (CSRs) find that avoiding negatively situated words helps to mitigate discrepancies.


I can’t help you today. My schedule is booked solid.My apologies. Is there another day that I can help you? It seems my schedule is full for today.
I won’t be able to do that. Ask Sarah, she has time.Let me see what I can do to have Sarah help us. I have another appointment at the same time.
Unfortunately, the timing is bad. I couldn’t get that report to you if I tried.I may have a timing challenge for today. I know I will have time to get the report to you tomorrow. Does this sound fair?
* Avoiding negatively situated wording chart *

As we all move towards a new environment, mid-pandemic, we can each do our part to help alleviate stress and anxiety from one another. Many people diagnosed with mild cases of covid19 are showing signs of short-term memory delay, brain fog, hallucinations, extreme fatigue, and attention challenges. Removing negatively situated wording from communication would be an increased delight for us all!

Connect the dots and Listen to our quick 2-minute podcast, “Bits & Pieces” about the “Know ‘No’s Rule.”

Familial Regards to Everyone,
Dr. Ri’Cha ri Sancho

Published by k12civilleadership

K-12 Civil Leadership is dedicated to preserving racial and ethnic minority psychological safety by offering research & training to education leaders, education advocates, and organization leaders. Teaching collaboration through education-community partnerships, we can leverage positive social interactions in K-12 students to make a bold impact on generations to come.

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