“You may not be able to control every situation and its outcome, but you can control your attitude and how you deal with it.” This quote has been attributed to a plethora of names and somewhat famous icons; however, it is unbeknownst to me who originally coined this phrase. Regardless, this saying holds true. It is our attitude and how we react to a given circumstance that determines our perspective on the world. Especially in the workplace, positivity can be difficult to maintain daily. It almost seems natural to allow pessimistic ideas and actions to take root throughout the day, without giving it a second thought. It’s time to change your mindset!
Many psychologists believe that our human brains are wired to put more emphasis on negative information rather than positive. Why? It is argued that focusing energy on the negative is engrained in us to keep us safe. If we are aware of situations that may harm us, then we have more of a chance to avoid it. Though this is a valuable instinct for survival, interacting with others and our on-the-job environment has little to do with evading imminent danger. The survival mechanism of emphasizing the bad remains, but we have far less need for it in this day and age. So how do we overcome something so deep-rooted in us as humans?
Complaining is the number one thing that welcomes a negative mindset in the workplace. Words have power, and they influence others. Using your voice to spread a “bad vibe” around will only decrease the enjoyment of the job, and cause you to ultimately believe the same. Also, people’s views of you may begin to be associated with downbeat ideas, too. I will concur, cutting out complaining is more easily said than done. Preaching this is simpler than actually implementing it into your speech and actions. It is even more difficult not to “feed the fire” of grievances that coworkers insist upon broadcasting in the breakroom. Instead of griping about the low pay-rate, the coworker you don’t like, or how a client really rubbed you the wrong way, practice gratitude.
There is a common saying, “for every negative, give ten positives.” By practicing this, your mind will start to shift to a positive mindset. Though it may sound cheesy, actively finding the silver lining can begin to alter the brain’s perspective without the original situation ever-changing. Like Aesop said, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” Furthermore, being grateful for opportunities to embrace growth can be valuable, too. Got yelled at by a customer? No, it wasn’t ideal, but now you may understand how to respond more calmly. Clocked in late for a shift? No worries, you can use this to strengthen time management skills in the future. For every situation, good or bad, there is always something to be thankful for and something to learn. Thanksgiving is not the only time to consciously state your gratitude. Make this a habit every day!
What do I mean by this, exactly? I think we so easily forget that those who work with, under, or even above us have a vivid life full of real, complex human experiences, much like our own. They all have a unique story. Recognizing this would mean understanding that they deserve respect and kindness. It is as easy as treating others as you want to be treated. The people around you are not robots. Instead, they are delicate yet resilient individuals who deserve the golden rule and acknowledgment of their worth as human beings.
This may look like encouraging someone with positive feedback, going out of your way to thank them for their efforts and contributions, creating professional, maybe personal, friendships with them if possible. Intentionally build them up with constructive words and actions. Start to see your mission in the workplace as more than getting the job done, but also as motivating those around you with positive interactions. By doing this, positivity will dwell among you and spread to others.
I mentioned this before, but it is so important to let people know they are appreciated and valued at the job! So often, constructive criticism is used in the workplace, and it helps correct and refining skills and behaviors. But, at the end of the day, it is still just that – criticism. Even if they don’t receive a direct critique, life itself takes a toll on a person’s mood and demeanor. In all honesty, it doesn’t take much to get someone down. These are negative feedback responses that the person receives, and to balance out again, the employee needs to internalize at least five positive messages. Because humans react more strongly to negative feedback, words of encouragement are a must! It could be as simple as an enthusiastic, “you’re doing great!” or a more intentional route of a written letter or a thoughtful gift. Get creative! Make sure to consider what the specific person would be uplifted by, not what would uplift you.
Smiling can be such a simple act of kindness that is easily overlooked. Positivity has a lot of clear examples – ways that voices and words can be used to raise the spirits of others – but smiling is a visible example of spreading positivity to those surrounding you. An authentic smile conveys the message, “All is well. I am happy.” Also, studies have shown that smiling reduces stress that your body and mind feel, almost similar to getting a good night’s rest. By smiling, your brain naturally generates more positive emotions. The mere act of contracting our “smiling” muscles around the mouth tells the brain to create a positive feedback loop. The beautiful thing about a smile is that it can spread like wildfire. One person starts the chain, then it continues throughout the workplace. This small act will create happiness, even if it is as short-lived as the smile itself.
A positive outlook has the power to increase productivity, job satisfaction, and innovation both among the workplace as a whole and its individual personnel. If this is something that has not been implemented or practiced very much at your job, then the change begins with you! On the other hand, if your workplace has been successful in cultivating a culture of positivity, then keep it going! Positivity is contagious! The benefits expand far beyond a better work environment, too. The power of positivity affects every facet of life – family, social, professional, individual – and can build a better world by spreading joy, one person at a time.