How to Stay Positive by Saying Yes

Detail from a sculpture of St George & The Dragon
Detail from a sculpture of St George & The Dragon

Life is fired at us point blank.
-Larry Wilson & Hersch Wilson

Bless and do not curse
– Romans 12:14

Stay positive. Look on the bright side. Be upbeat. Think future-focused, not in the past.

If you’re struggling with anything in your personal or professional life, this is good advice, but it can be difficult. When life is shooting at you point blank and you can’t duck, it can be difficult to keep telling yourself a positive story.

Rejecting the Negative by Embracing It

The problem with staying positive is that sometimes the negative comes with a bite. Taking a very old idea and giving a new spin, authors Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval in The Power of Nice say that we need to Get off the ‘No’ Train and embrace the negative with a ‘Yes’ by:

  1. Assuming the Yes
    Train yourself to interpret the negative in a positive way. Look for the gold in the middle of the mess. When a team member raises an issue on the day of the Gate, rather than looking at the issue and pushing back, Assume the Yes. Be grateful that the issue was raised by a teammember before the Gate was passed when the customer or a key stakeholder would raise the issue and question our process. And then,
  2. Express the Yes.
    Ninety-seven percent of our communication is non-verbal, so just assuming the Yes is not enough, you have to express it. Our body language seems to speak louder than our words. With a virtual team, the lack of visual feedback has to be made up for by an increase in expression in emails, messages and enthusiasm at the beginning and maintained throughout the project. Thank the teammember for raising the issue and call or send a thank you email afterwards, making it clear that you understand the risk that was just averted.

Being Unrelentingly Positive

At times, it may seem impossible to say Yes, but even then, the authors say you can find something to say Yes to. Whatever comes at you, you can take that energy and convert into a Yes. In the end, rather than sinking below the negativity, you catch that energy and ride it in the direction you were heading.

This is difficult, so I don’t beat myself up when I fail to be unrelentingly positive. What keeps me trying is to remember that when I say Yes to something, I keep the door open to possibility, rather than closing it by saying No or pushing back. Next time, the teammember might be open to raising issues earlier, rather than waiting until the day of the Gate. More importantly, when I say Yes, I stay closer to happy than if I respond negatively. And on challenging days, Happiness is not an ON or OFF state, it can be a matter of degrees.

How have you handled challenging situations? Have you tried this approach and succeeded? Have you tried this and mucked it up? Leave me a comment or send me a tweet. My id is jgodfrey.

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