Most of us work best and most effectively when we are excited about what we are doing, engaged with our work, and feel like we are making a difference. Such positive energy is important to personal effectiveness and professional success. However, it is so easy to get dragged down by complaining co-workers or moaning managers. And when we try to perk up a group, it often backfires. A recent Harvard Business Review blog post highlights a few solutions to such scenarios.
According to Peter Bregman, here is the problem:
“Countering someone’s negativity with your positivity doesn’t work because it’sargumentative. People don’t like to be emotionally contradicted and if you try to convince them that they shouldn’t feel something, they’ll only feel it more stubbornly. And if you’re a leader trying to be positive, it comes off even worse because you’ll appear out of touch and aloof to the reality that people are experiencing.The other instinctive approach — confronting someone’s negativity with your own negativity — doesn’t work because it’s additive. Your negative reaction to their negative reaction simply adds fuel to the fire. Negativity breeds negativity.”
Okay, so what do we do to break the cycle of negativity without adding fuel to the fire?
Persuasive Positive Thinking
1. “Understand how they feel and validate it.”
People are more likely to see from your point of view if you first take a look at things from their perspective. You do not have to agree or join their chorus of negativity. You just need to acknowledge that their feelings are valid and that you understand where they are coming from.
2. “Find a place to agree with them.”
If you can find even a small piece of common ground, then you are more likely to be able to help boost morale. Perhaps you are both feeling frustrated by the same problem, and you just need to find a way to see eye to eye before you can problem-solve or think in a more positive manner.
3. “Find out what they are positive about and reinforce it.”
Positive reinforcement is a very effective tactic from everything from managing employees to disciplining children. Rather than punishing undesirable characteristics (such as negativity), there is a lot of research that suggests that it is more effective to praise and reward the good stuff (like a positive attitude). Oftentimes, when more attention and praise go to the positive behaviors, the less desirable behaviors fade away. You don’t even need to get your employees to think positively about a particular thing – just latch on to anything they are optimistic about and reinforce that positive thinking to boost your personal effectiveness as a manager and their personal effectiveness as an employee.