Many times we’re pretty lucky to be surrounded with positive energy and people with a generally positive outlook. We meet and speak to people who move us with the hope and excitement they inspire. Strangers surprise us with support and loved ones lift us up with their generosity.
Perhaps it is because of these remarkable highs that we can also be keenly aware of the lows. Every now and then, we’re faced with the challenges of both keeping a positive outlook in the face of negative situations and of responding to people with negative outlooks. Luckily, we have some effective methods to face those challenges. Some of those tactics are described in the book “How Words Can Change Your Brain” which help to shift our perspective and to use some strategies to change the course of where that negativity goes.
We’ll go through some life experiences to highlight both positive and negative situations and to look at what the experts (Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist and and Mark Robert Waldman, an executive communications professor and coach) have to say about each of them.
1. Presenting your big ideas- Preparing to propose ideas that are near and dear to your heart can be a nerve-racking and, depending who you’re presenting to, intimidating. Every now and then you get that hopeful experience when your proposal is welcomed with open arms and they say those incredible words, “I believe in your idea, and I want to make it happen.” When your enthusiasm and hard work is validated and appreciated, you get those awesome boosts that propel you forward.
When you enter a conversation with optimism both you and the listener will likely be more satisfied with the interaction. Further, if before you enter a situation you visualize it as a success, it will enhance your motivation to acheive it. Positive imagery can reduce a negative state of mind, whereas negative imagery can enhance it. Mental imagery is more powerful than almost any thing else, including verbal cues. In situations when you feel doubt or need confidence, visualize it happening just as you want it to.
2. Getting shot down- Sitting down for a meeting about your ideas to hear the first words, “this is never going to work,” is a nightmare of a scenario for any area of life. Sometimes people are determined to hold on to their mindsets and are inclined to persuade you to join their camp. Many times, their negativity is contagious and we leave feeling outraged or discouraged. No matter what you tell yourself to feel, you can’t help but resent the naysayer, and in doing so, you become a hotspot of negative feelings too.
When you feel angry, acting on that anger or outwardly reacting to that anger reinforces it. While it’s helpful to acknowledge anything you’re feeling, the experts recommend observing negativity inwardly without reaction and without judgement. Then reframe each negative feeling and thought into a positive, compassionate, solution-based direction. Misdirected anger and negativity is what you’re up against, and you must not add to it by sinking into that hole yourself.
Also, while negativity can have an immense impact on people who hear it, some people can overuse strongly negative words to the point that they are immune to their effects. “Chronic complainers” are sometimes unaware of the powerful negative effect they have on others.
3. A hard no- You call up a coworker to join you for a drink in hopes of making a new friend. She flat out says no, she would not like to do that because “she gets enough of her coworkers at work and doesn’t want to see them on her time off.” Later you discover it was you in particular she’d had enough of as she disapproved of you on a personal level and had been sharing her outlook with your friends.
Sometimes we get ideas that we’re not good enough, and it’s even worse if others have reinforced or introduced those voices for us. The experts suggest that you conteract negative noise with positive thoughts. Because negativity can have a stronger impact on a basic level than positivity can, you need to generate 3-5 positive thoughts for every one negative thought. When conflicts or anger does arise, take action to acknowledge and apologize for where you were in the wrong, and take time to listen to how that affected those around you and how they’re feeling now.
4. An easy yes- Moving right along, you hit up two other potential friends to see if they’d want to go have a girls night out. Both of these girls were much more enthusiastic and proved to be very excited about the idea of a fun night on the town. You have outings scheduled the next two weeks.
Research shows that first impressions do matter, and guess what? They hinge on honesty of expression, even more powerfully on positive expression. One type of gaze (the kind that includes eyes with signs of genuine happiness) will attract us and incite an increase in trust, while another (the kind with signs of anger or fear) will push us away from interaction and trust. The take away is to be genuine and (of course) positive when meeting and interacting with others.
5. Anything you can do…– After pouring yourself into a project significantly for the last few weeks, you excitedly show it to a colleague. Admittedly, you’re expecting some sort of approval and appreciation, but instead you receive a list of things about your work that, according to him, aren’t acceptable and that look horrible. He informs you that he will change it all and then he proceeds to change it all without seeking input from you or considering the work you’d done to help.
Research shows that the most successful business teams are those who communicate the most positively with one another. They respond positively even when communicating a contradictory idea. Also, people who work for a highly positive leader tend to be happier with their jobs.
When you have a harmful experience, it helps to BRIEFLY write down your worries. More powerful, however, is writing down and reflecting on things you did well. Each day, experts recommend writing down at least 3 things you did well that day. Use as many language centers as you can to reinforce positive messages. Read positive novels, write positive messages, and share positve aspects of your life with others. The last one is beneficial to you and your audience, whose brain is also positively stimulated with messages of happiness and success.
6. Above and beyond support- Your parents are some of the lucky ones who receive phone calls with all of your exciting bits of news and are right beside you with their enthusiasm. This alone helps you feel incredibly loved and supported, but on top of that, they start a fund to support a life-long dream of yours.
Happiness researchers have found that long term satisfaction comes from regularly thinking positively about yourself, sharing your happiest events with others, and savoring positive experiences in your life. Think and share experiences honestly, and avoid both positive and negative exaggeration. Words like amazing, excellent, fabulous, fantastic, incredible, marvelous, etc. generate distrust and disconnect in listeners.
That’s not to say that positive words are bad. You can measure how stable a relationship is just by counting how many positive and negative words are used in everyday conversations. Choosing positive affirmations over inflammatory words decreases the release of cytokins, proteins that are linked to many diseases including diabetes, cancer, and arthritis.
7. Cutting a cord to change a path- You realize you’re holding on to a relationship that just isn’t working and is making you feel bad. You realize that neither that person nor your interaction with him was small or insignificant to you, and that if he was only going to continue to be a negative force in your life, you needed to give him up. So you say goodbye, and though it was needed, the loss of a dream always feels a little bit negative.
When a negative thought or worry takes over, you must interupt it. They recommend first asking yourself, ‘is this really a threat to my personal survival?’ When the answer is no, you then reframe the thought into a positive one. Instead of thinking about the relationship you lost, focus instead on the ways that you might find a new relationship and think of the steps you can take to get there. Also, instead of focusing on reasons why you might have been rejected or perceived in the wrong way by others, shift your focus to those qualities that you truly admire about yourself.
8. Taking a risk to change a path- Clients trust you to guide them in a big life change. They take a risk in confiding in you and in going into the unknown with faith that it will take them where they want to go. They take small steps that mean alot to the changes they make or they let go of security they’ve been holding onto in order to move forward. All of this takes courage and faith, and you feel so lucky that you can be a part of it.
“Relationships thrive when people are immersed in an environment of positivity, mutual respect, cooperation, and trust. There’s just no room for chronic negativity in business or in love.”
Reframing negative thoughts and feelings into positive affirmations helps improve communication, confidence, and self-control. Even just using or looking at lists of positive words helps improve mood and emotional regulation. Practicing positivity and leading others to do the same strengthens any bond you have.
There are times when negativity can be overwhelming because it is so loud. However positivity, with it’s quiet power, can be even more influential. Remember to be grateful for what you have. Remember that you are great and why you are great. Finally, remember to share your resulting genuine happiness with others because it will come back ten-fold.