Attention leaders: If you want people to do something different, you need to communicate in a way that leads to that desired outcome.
It’s all about positivity. Unfortunately, as humans, we’re practically hardwired to be negative. (Why is there always a monster under the bed and never Santa?) And this negativity is reinforced by what we see and hear around us, in politics and in business. Research has even shown that a negative perspective is more contagious than a positive perspective.
There is way, however, for leaders to overcome this negative bias and incite positive change in the workplace, such as improved productivity, initiative or employee morale.
You need to change your thinking: first about yourself and then about others.
This story illustrates my point.
I recently went shopping with my niece Maddie, who is a freshman in high school. We picked out her prom dress, and then I put the dress on layaway for her. I explained that she needed to do chores around her house (cleaning dishes, mopping the floor, etc.) without complaint. She needed to show me that she completed the work (through Snapchat, her preferred communication form) and then I would see to it that she got her dress. My goal was for her to take ownership of the cost of the dress and show that she can be responsible.
As we were discussing the arrangement, her grandmother was shaking her head and rolling her eyes. She was convinced it wasn’t going to work.
But I know that the key to change is thinking positively. To modify a behavior, you need to praise the good and ignore the bad. You need to show people that you believe that they can change.
Grandma said, “Well, I believe she can do it.” I said, “I believe she will do it. I believe that this is important to her and that she will succeed. And this conviction is what she needs from you.”
Since our conversation, Maddie has sent me a snap every day of her completed chore. She’s motivated and I couldn’t be more pleased.
More than anything, if you want a change or a fresh start, you need to change your thoughts and how you communicate them. How we think about others dictates how we speak about them. And how we think about ourselves dictates how we speak about ourselves.
Being positive in your communication can change your perception and also change behaviors.
How leaders can use this insight in a workplace
- Always speak with confidence, both about yourself and others. Negative thoughts reveal themselves in the way we communicate. When we’re unsure of ourselves, we tend to talk too fast, disengage, or worse put ourselves down. When we’re unsure of others, we hesitate or cast doubts.
- Focus on what can be done, instead of dwelling on what didn’t go well in the past.
- Be mindful of negative and emotionally charged words.
- Make a habit of appreciating and rewarding positive outcomes, and encourage others to do the same. This positive reinforcement leads to more success.
- When negative feedback is necessary, wrap it around positive comments or feedback.
- Be mindful of negative bias and triggers. Work hard to keep negativity out of the office. It takes multiple positive events to counterbalance a single negative event.