If you want to be positive, you must speak the positive and see the positive.
Last week I talked about the attitude – behavior connection. I talked about the “act-as-if” principle. I said if you want to “be” enthusiastic, you have to “act” enthusiastically.
But let me be a bit more specific. I’ve found that one of the best ways to “act” enthusiastically is to SAY SOMETHING POSITIVE TO EVERY PERSON YOU MEET.
You don’t have to feel on top of the world to do this. After all, it isn’t very demanding to share a smile, give a greeting, speak a kind word, or offer a handshake to the people around you. And there’s a double benefit when you do this. You’ll feel better, but so will everyone else.
Of course, you may be thinking that I don’t know the difficult people you have to live and work with. You may be thinking that it’s not even possible to be positive with some of those folks.
I would respectfully disagree. You can always find something positive to say to the other person.
Take Lois Wendell, for example. When she discovered she had cancer some years ago, she immediately called her boss — partly to keep him informed but also to get some of his positive support.
Her boss Robert said he would come right over. But once he was there, he sat in his car in front of her house trying to think of something to say. He wondered what he could say to a team member who wasn’t expected to live very long. What could he say that would be positive and helpful?
Several years later, Lois told her boss that his comments made all the difference in the world. His calm, positive comments made her feel that she would be okay.
Robert said he was glad that he had been helpful, but in all honesty, he said he wasn’t quite sure what he said. Lois reminded him. He helped her focus on the positive. He helped her develop an attitude of gratitude.
Together they made a list of the things she was thankful for. She was thankful for living in a country where the finest medical help was available. She was thankful for the fact that great advances were being made in the treatment of cancer. And she was thankful for all the support she got from her friends and family members.
Robert added the clincher. He said, “We’re thankful for this beautiful gift of faith that Lois has. She doesn’t know what the future holds, but she knows Who holds the future.”
In other words, he was able to say something positive, even powerfully positive, in the most difficult of circumstances. So can you. You can always find something positive to share. It will sustain your enthusiasm, and it will eventually bring out the enthusiasm of others.
Some managers and some employees tell me they don’t have time for such fluff. They don’t have time to say “Good morning,” or “Good evening,” or other such niceties. Besides that, they say, it might look a little strange.
One manager in a pharmaceutical company took me seriously however. He decided to give it a try after I talked about the technique at an in-house seminar. He said the technique proved to be more effective than anything else he had done to create a more positive work environment.
He said he used to go into the office each morning and close his door. He caught up on his e-mails, telephone calls, and then went off to a few meetings. He said sometime later in the day he might get around to greeting the people in his department or drop in to see how they were doing.
Now he says, “I take the first few minutes each morning to connect with my people. I make sure I greet them warmly and enthusiastically. I tell them I’m glad to see them, ask a question about some aspect of their life, and wish them a successful day.”
And the results have been more than worth the effort. He reported, “The whole atmosphere at work seems a bit more friendly and upbeat. There are fewer cliques grumbling in the lunch room, and people have stopped saying ‘That’s not my job.’ The communication skills you taught really work.”
Of course, that manager was using more than the one skill of saying something positive to every person. But that skill got the ball rolling.
If you’re interested in similar results, check out my program entitled “Staying Up in a Down World: 8 Keys to a Positive Work Environment.” I offer it as a convention keynote or as an organizational half to full-day seminar.
Another way to act enthusiastically is to SEE SOMETHING POSITIVE EVERY DAY IN EVERY SITUATION. And you can always find something. No matter how rotten a situation might be, there is always, always, always something positive in it. If you can see the positive, you will be acting enthusiastically. You will be energized to keep on keeping on.
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t use this skill. They’re positive when things are going well, and they’re negative when things aren’t going so well. They’re up and they’re down. The smallest setback can turn into a catastrophe for these people.
If you force yourself to see the positive in every situation, however, I guarantee you’ll find something. And you’ll feel better and do better.
One of my daughters taught me that. When she was about ten years of age, she was going through a negative phase. She didn’t like school, and she didn’t like her teacher. She didn’t want to do her homework, and she didn’t want to do her household chores. Her toys were no good, and her friends were too few. One complaint after another.
One day, while the two of us were driving in the car, she came out with another long string of complaints. I had had enough, so I began to lecture her. I told her I was sick and tired of hearing her complain all the time. I told her life wasn’t that bad, and she could always find something positive in every situation — if she just looked.
At the very moment I finished my lecture, a train stopped us from driving any further. She knew we would be stuck there for some time, and she didn’t exactly relish my lecture. So she said, “Ha! What’s so good about that?”
Caught by surprise, I realized that I didn’t know. I didn’t know what was good about being stuck by a train. And I didn’t like the fact that she may have shot down my principle of seeing something positive in every situation. So I gave my old professorial response when I was stuck. I said, “Why don’t you think about it a little while and maybe you can think of an answer.”
She thought about the situation for a couple of minutes as we both sat there in silence. Then she jumped up and said, “I know what is good about this! We get to talk for a little while.”
Of course she was right. On a normal afternoon we would have gone straight home. I would have read the paper, done some work in the yard, or finished some chores around the house. She would have gone out to play with her friends. We didn’t take the time to visit with each other as often as we should. With her comment, we both found the positive in a difficult situation.
You can and should do the same thing at work. Look for the positive. Look for ways to make the best out of any situation.
I know it’s tough out there in many organizations. Whether it’s budgetary constraints, monumental change, or personnel problems, there’s plenty of challenge for most of us. So I’m not suggesting that you overlook all those challenges or pretend they don’t exist. That’s ridiculous.
Seeing the positive in every situation is simply a tool that keeps you energized. It prevents demoralization and demotivation. It keeps you going through the tough times rather than be stopped by them.
I’m urging you to become more of an optimist than a pessimist. That’s where the power lies. And no one knew that better than Winston Churchill, a truly great leader who helped save western civilization. He said, “The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity.”
It’s time for you to tap into the power of the positive.
Action: This week consciously look for positive things you can genuinely say to each person you meet. It may be a simple hello, a warm smile, a bit of good news, a joke, or a compliment. But find things and start to share them.