We’ve all read books about the power of being positive, and we’ve probably listened to a few speakers expound on the topic. Why, then, are many people still so negative, both at home and at work? Perhaps people have been so focused on why they need to be positive rather than on how to do it. To help put positivity in perspective, here are a few strategies for practicing it that will affect all areas of your life.
1. Check your perception.
Do you perceive that people in your life are deliberately acting irresponsibly or pushing your buttons, or do you view the behavior as the person’s best attempt to solve a frustration? Your perception directs how you will react. If you think your child, for example, is deliberately causing problems, your natural reaction will be to respond in a negative way that consumes your time and energy. On the other hand, if you think your child is attempting to resolve some dissatisfaction or frustration, then your approach will be to help the youngster, rather than hurt your child by imposing some punishment. Thinking of children as becoming adults but are presently just younger directs your behavior to help—rather than to harm by yelling, threatening, or using some other form of coercion.
2. Separate the behavior from the person.
It is natural to self-defend. If criticized or accused, our instinct is to defend ourselves by justifying our actions. Children are no different. For example, reflect on any job you have had that required your being evaluated. During your conversation with your supervisor, did your self-talk sound something like, “My supervisor is not evaluating me—just my job performance”? Probably not! In reality, however, the supervisor is evaluating your job performance, not you as a person. So if you, as an adult, find it almost impossible to separate yourself from your behavior, how do you expect a young person to do it?
Separating the young person from the behavior prevents the tendency to criticize and label and keeps the interaction positive. If a child is not acting responsibly, acknowledge the act but do not call the child “irresponsible.” Label the behavior, rather than the person. “Do you consider this a responsible thing to do?” is far more effective than “You are irresponsible!”
3. Go for the gold.
Communicating in positive terms encourages, and encouragement is often the spark that ignites motivation. A phrase such as, “I know you can do this because I have seen how capable you are,” encourages people to believe in their own abilities and leads to self-responsibility.
Sometimes a word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than a whole book of praise after a success. When a child has not been successful, ask, “What can we learn from this experience?” By doing so, you can teach your the child to focus on the positive in every experience because every experience can be a learning one.