Welles: The power of being positive

What if we stopped complaining and started paying more attention to the good things going on around us? That old approach is re-emerging in management circles.

Showing and expressing appreciation are related to the notion that we take too much for granted, including the people with whom we work and the agency where we work. Gallup reported last year that 70 percent of people in the United States said they receive no thanks or recognition at work. And
most people who leave jobs say they do so because they don’t feel appreciated.

Sometimes it seems as if we live in a culture of negativity. We seldom acknowledge the things that go right. And obsessing about our own challenges and conflicts only adds to that dark and negative cloud.
One of the people trying to clean out the negativism is Mike Robbins, author of “Focus on the Good Stuff.”

“Exercising the power of appreciation with your colleagues and in your organization takes some focus, practice and courage,” he wrote.

He proposed five principles to get you started:

1. Be grateful.
2. Choose positive thoughts and feelings.
3. Use positive words.
4. Acknowledge others.
5. Appreciate yourself.

Being grateful alters how you see things. Robbins wrote that actor Michael Fox, battling Parkinson’s disease, has said he is grateful for the disease because of what it has taught him about himself, others and life. Talk about perspective! Finding something to be grateful for in the midst of a problem can help you get through it.

Asking what is going well can begin a positive discussion. “If more people within the organization paid attention to their thoughts and feelings and chose positive ones, the culture of the organization would change in a very positive way,” Robbins wrote.

One of the most difficult times to be positive is when you are trying to give feedback to create change. Robbins suggests first asking permission to give feedback to a person and then letting that person know what positive outcome you are hoping to achieve. Say what is going well, and use “I” statements, not “you” statements, about what you observe. Be clear about the changes or outcome you would like to see. Thank the person for talking with you and being open to your feedback. 

Positive words are more likely to get you what you want. Robbins, who is a career coach, has found that positively acknowledging others — and yourself — can bring about change.

Another positive thinker, Susan Heathfield, an organizational development consultant, said actions speak louder than words. You show appreciation when you give an employee an opportunity to cross-train, for example, or represent your organization on a special committee. Even a staff lunch for a special occasion or no official reason is a way to say thanks.

Welles (judywelles@1105govinfo.com) is a retired federal employee who also worked in the private sector. She writes about work/life topics for Federal Computer Week.

About the Author

Judith Welles is a retired federal employee who has also worked in the private sector. She lives in Bethesda, Md.

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