The Positivity Pledge

The subject line of this article may already have you rolling your eyes; of course we all know the power of positivity. We recognize we should always look on the bright side, turn a frown upside down, and keep our chins up. But we all have bad days that just seem like it would have been a better idea to never leave the house, and we all have frustrated moments where we need to blow off steam.

Have you ever noticed that some people seem to need these venting sessions more than others?

Have you noticed that many of them might work in your office or on your team?

Developing a positive perspective can be a natural skill for some, and a very learned skill for others. Whether you identify this in yourself or with others throughout your organization, there is much that can be done to pursue a pledge of positivity in the workplace and beyond. Knowing that it is a logical thought process that we have the ability and power to choose our attitude, why does the cliché of “it’s not what happens to you that matters, it’s how you react to it” not make more sense in the moment? If you want to take steps to engage a more positive perspective, where do you begin?

The Right Person
Encourage those on your team (or yourself at times) to go directly to the source of the frustration. Have you noticed that people almost always vent to the wrong crowd? They vent to individuals who cannot do anything to remedy the complaint; they go to work and complain about their spouse, or they go home and complain to their spouse about the people at work. When it comes to actually creating change and progress in life, it requires being courageous with complaining.

It takes courage to ask the members of your team at the office to help you with some of the extra workload you’ve been given – but only they can do something to help you. It takes courage to tell your team that you felt a certain way following a recent interaction or meeting, but nothing will change if you don’t have the strength to respectfully confront (and of course, to be respectfully confronted as well).

Learn to replace complaining with making requests and taking action that will achieve your desired outcomes and change for the better. If you find yourself in a situation you don’t like, either work to make it better or leave. Be aware of what frustrates you (or when others bring their frustrations to you), and be proactive about finding a solution that can be implemented. If someone is frustrated with a lack of new clients, be proactive in coming up with new ideas to market to untouched accounts. If someone is annoyed because meetings are cancelled at the last minute, volunteer to conduct the meetings yourself if something comes up.

At the end of the day, if it’s not able to be fixed or improved? You can move on knowing that you took initiative and didn’t sit back waiting for someone else to hand over a solution.

Recognize Passive Requests
Often, individuals can use complaining as a passive way of asking for support or solutions. “I’m so busy” isn’t just a declarative statement; it might be a subtle indicator that the individual feels unprepared for the tasks at hand and is concerned they are on the brink of dropping the ball (or already has). Encourage colleagues, in these situations, to be comfortable asking directly for what is needed. As a leader, you must foster an environment in which such requests are met with openness and discussion. Ultimately, if someone is not willing to make direct requests, the request itself must not be important.

By encouraging others to take more responsibility for what they want or need, it empowers them to begin to take more responsibility for their behaviors and outcomes of those behaviors.

Help others understand that words have power; the way we say things matters. One could complain, “I am being bombarded with emails” or one could ask for suggestions for technology tools and effective time management. One is powerless. The other is proactive. One is letting an environment dictate your experience, while the other is choosing to create your own reality through actions.

Set the Example
We affect, and are affected by the people we meet, in one way or another. As a leader, maintaining a positive perspective and consistent way of being is essential; only the inner core of a team should be allowed to see you sweat. Negativity is sensed instinctively and on a subconscious level, through words, thoughts and feelings, and through body language. If you would prefer to be around positive people and avoid negative ones, would you assume your colleagues feel the same way? People are more disposed to help us, if we are positive, and they dislike and avoid anyone broadcasting negativity.

Take the Challenge
Over the years, there have been many viral movements geared towards changing behavior for a set period of time, including putting an emphasis on things such as fitness, healthy eating, or finances. Several of those challenges include a commitment to stop complaining for several weeks; think your office is ready for such a challenge? This includes internal dialogue as much as external. You might find that what was once thought of as a “natural” skill of a positive mindset might not be so much that the grass is greener on the other side, as much as those neighbors have just spent more time watering and cultivating their lawn.

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—Karen Schmidt

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