As a trained marriage and family therapist and career coach, I’ve researched for over 13 years what makes some people highly successful interpersonally and in business, and others doomed to fail.
I’ve observed this: Being more positive and uplifting in your behaviors and language makes room for far greater success, satisfaction and reward in your life (this goes for your marriage and family life too).
How do we become more positive? It’s an extremely important question and it involves a myriad of decisions, behaviors and commitments. It’s about strengthening your boundaries, shifting your mindset, being very careful about every word you utter, moving away from negative people, and more.
In short, there’s not a one-step-cure for this – it’s a journey and a lifelong commitment to a series of behaviors. Also, it’s about cultivating positive thinking as a habit.
In Marriage as In Life and Work
During my therapy training, I read a fascinating book called The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. In it, the author, leading relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, explains that there are particular types of negative interactions that, if allowed to run rampant, are so lethal to a relationship that he calls them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These four horsemen “clip-clop into the heart of a marriage in the following order: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.”
I’ve seen these exact same harbingers of professional disaster in the workplace as well. Allowed to run unfettered, these Four Horsemen will certainly clip-clop into the heart of your career and professional life with a deadly thud.
Dr. Gottman discovered a formula he believes is provable and reliable – that to make your marriage successful, you must ensure that there are five times more positive, loving interactions than negative, painful interactions between you and your spouse. If you don’t adhere to this formula, serious unhappiness ensues. And if you dip toward the 1:1 ratio consistently, he says you’re likely to end in divorce. He can watch a couple discuss a problem or conflict for only a few minutes, and predict with eerie accuracy if they’ll eventually end in divorce.
Interestingly, I’ve seen the relevance of this positive-to-negative interaction formula in people’s careers and professional endeavors as well. Those who are consistently more negative than positive in their communications and interactions suffer from an untimely demise of their career potential.
Why is Negativity So Destructive?
Negativity limits, constrains and tears down. Negativity also tends to escalate, and as it does, it strips away future opportunities for success, self-esteem, trust, confidence, and growth.
What Does Positivity Do Instead?
Being positive, on the other hand, has the opposite effect – it builds, repairs, and protects. Using positive language and behaviors builds up support structures and creates new roads to solutions and success. It paves the way for a deeper level of human connection, compassion, and creativity.
In fact, I’ve found that concentrating your focus on being more positive as you engage in your professional endeavors achieves the following 10 powerful outcomes:
Being more positive:
1) Helps you engage with others more effectively and gain support more easily for your ideas and initiatives
2) Develops you as a role model and someone to “watch,” admire and learn from
3) Gives you greater positive impact and influence on your culture, your environment and your colleagues (positive language and emotion are magnets)
4) Boosts your “immunity” to negative outside occurrences – you become more resilient and bounce back quicker
5) Inspires others around you to find the courage to seek — and move toward — the positive
6) Strengthens your ability to advocate effectively for yourself and others, which in turn attracts more opportunity for all involved
7) Paves the way for more collaborative success rather than crushing competition
8) Builds your reputation as someone worthy of trust and support
9) Helps you see possibility where others see only hopelessness
10) Brings to light your achievements and accomplishments rather than highlighting your failures
In the end, positivity paves the way for growth, and growth breeds success.
You might be thinking, “Sure, I know being positive is important, but I can’t seem to shift myself out of my negative thinking, especially with all this bad news around us today.”
If this sounds like you, I’d ask you to think again. We CAN change and modify – it’s called evolving. We ARE able to shift ourselves away from negative, destructive and damaging negative patterns to more positive ones – in our relationships and in our work. I know, because I’ve worked extremely hard to create these shifts in myself and in my career, and worked with hundreds of others do the same, to great success.
If you will make the commitment today to engage in more positive behaviors and thoughts in your life and work, I know you won’t regret it.
Your challenge: This week, take a very close look at your communications and interactions at work. What is the ratio of your positive communications to negative ones? If the ratio is at least 5 (positive) to 1 (negative), kudos to you! If not, there’s some important work to be done.
To learn how to become more positive and build stronger boundaries to separate from negative people, work with Kathy in her new Close Your Power Gaps coaching program and tune into her weekly podcast Finding Brave.