Stop seeing the negatives & start living the positives
By Susanne Barth, Publications Manager
Do you sometimes tend to be more negative than positive? If so, you’re not alone. According to research, most of us seem to lean towards the negative. Critical feedback has more of an impact on us than praise and we remember negative memories more clearly than positive ones.
Yes, some people are more optimistic, but generally, we experience anything negative more intensely. In fact, in our brains, negative emotions involve more processing, and are quickly “saved” in our long-term memory. Do you want to get the same effect for something positive? Then, you’ll have to actively think about it for 12 seconds or more.
Having negative thoughts affects all aspects of our lives, adds to our stress and anxiety levels, and impacts our physical health too. In the workplace it can lead to reduced productivity, teamwork, communication, and trust – which can make achieving goals a challenge. And negativity isn’t just a personal issue, especially if you’re a manager, because research confirms that negative thinking is contagious.
Fortunately for all of us, this is also true for positive thinking, and the ability to focus on strengths and opportunities. Thinking positively has become an important factor for personal growth and success. In the working environment, it supports problem-solving, boosts enthusiasm, improves resilience, contributes to effective decision-making, and builds a strong culture that extends to customers.
Here are a few ways to start changing a negative mind-set to a positive one, which can also influence your team members.
We can’t always change a negative situation, but we can change our attitude towards it. A constructive attitude is all about seeing the “full picture”. When confronted with an issue or situation, we usually focus on one “side of the coin” and then exaggerate it. But having such a narrow focus limits our ability to address the issue or situation constructively and can also magnify our existing negative emotions, as well as those of our team members.
So how do you develop a constructive attitude? By always looking at three “‘sides” of an issue or situation:
1) what happened, 2) the positive and 3) the negative aspects.
It doesn’t matter which dimensions you start with, but before you make one your focus, consciously consider the other two as well. For example, if you’re being too negative, highlight the factual and the positive sides for a more balanced view. And if you struggle to do this, consider discussing the issue or situation with someone you trust to gain a fresh perspective.
Negative: Frustrated, dwelling on the spoilt chance and resentful for losing
Factual: A competitor made an offer better matching the client’s needs.
Positive: The team worked well together to prepare the presentation, the client appreciated the powerful
We all have a perception of reality based on our backgrounds and how we believe things should be.This leads to expectations, which we usually create subconsciously. But when our expectations don’t match the reality, the result is often frustration and unrealised goals.
The key is to work towards connecting reality and your expectations. But where do you start? We always have power over our expectations, which makes adapting them easier. However, you need to be willing to adapt them. Determine which expectations haven’t been met and whether you are ready to reconsider them.
Addressing reality involves understanding what isn’t working and what actions are needed. Trying to adapt yourself to fit reality, or adjust reality to fit yourself is a frustrating exercise. So instead, start with your expectations. If you don’t feel ready to deal with either your expectations or reality, choose another route. But take action. Just doing something about it already challenges negativity.
Learn to identify your negative thoughts. Don’t suppress them, but don’t brood over them either. And before you simply believe them, test their “truth” by thinking about whether they are true, important or helpful.
Another way to address negative thoughts is to actively start changing them into positive ones. For example, replace a statement like "I’m overloaded" with “I have a lot to do but I will get through it bit by bit” or “I am so angry – I hate working with him” with “I will change the way I think so our relationship improves”.
Thinking positively doesn’t happen overnight. It’s achieved through continuous positive action – every day. Yes, negativity will still exist, but just remember that the bad experiences we have can be overcome by a series of good ones - so always aim to balance any negatives with plenty of positives and soon you’ll experience how much power positivity has in everything you do.
• Keep yourself in positive company. It isn’t always easy to avoid negative people, but be aware of their
negative habits which you may have started adopting.
• Decide to let go of things you can’t change. Rather than wishing for and worrying about "what is not" and
"what’s supposed to be", learn to accept "what is". See the negatives as opportunities for learning and
• Avoid gossip and complaining, which can make you, as well as your team members, feel negative.
• Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone is different with unique abilities; focus on your strengths.
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