Accentuate the Positive

If you think about the last time you didn’t like a movie, a meal, or something someone said, I bet you’ll recall it was fairly easy to identify what it was about it you didn’t like. It’s usually easy to pick out and even criticize what we don’t like about something or someone. And while it’s useful to identify why things don’t work so you can learn from them and/or avoid them in the future, getting caught up in criticizing can lead to a lot of negativity. I know there’ve been times when I’ve started to criticize in order to vent, only to find myself quickly in the midst of a Gripe Fest, with me ending up feeling more frustrated than relieved.

It’s easy to criticize. That’s why “everyone’s a critic”. What isn’t easy is keeping things positive. It takes a lot more energy to emphasize the positive. But how much more enriching would our interactions be if we ditched criticizing for a bit and accentuated the positive? That’s what I’m challenging you to try today. Not forever. Just today. We’ll call it a little experiment. Here’s three tricks you can try in your conversations that will help keep the energy around them upbeat and positive.

1. Look on the bright side. Try talking about the good in a situation before you talk about the bad and emphasizing it more. Maybe you liked the color of the bride’s maid dresses even if you didn’t like the style, or you appreciated your boss consulting you even though he completely disregarded your input. There’s always something positive to mention if you look for it. And even if there’s relatively little good to concentrate on compared to the bad, focusing your comments on that good will make a difference in keeping the energy around the issue positive.

2. Try describing what you’d like to see happen ahead of time instead of what you’re disappointed didn’t happen afterwards. This requires forethought, and sometimes a lot of specificity. And this can be incredibly difficult if you often think it should be obvious what that would be. But sometimes it’s the best way to realize what you’d like to see happen.

For example, if you ask your teenager to take out the trash but don’t specify when, you could find the odor smelling up your home. Or if you ask a coworker do a particular part of a project but don’t specify the software program you need it in, she could present you with a spreadsheet when you needed a Power Point presentation. It may seem like some of these things are “common sense”, but no one lives in your head—describing what the positive outcome will be, especially ahead of time, can get everyone on the same page and give you a more positive outcome.

3. Amplify good feelings. When you concentrate on the good, the energy of it can continue to grow and get bigger. If you’re having trouble feeling that kind of positive energy, follow the advice of author Rhonda Byrne in her book, “The Secret: The Power”: start listing all the things, people and happenings you love or have loved. You’ll find that as the list grows, your good feelings do too, and the positive feelings amplify.

Try accentuating the positive today and see how it goes. I’d bet that you’ll find you not only feel more positive, those positive feelings spread to others too!