First, let me start this blog with a heartfelt apology to all those involved in my 4th grade summer camp - the counselors, the campers, and even my mom. Why the need for an apology? Because I was a world-class negative brat the entire week. Let me fill you in -- I left for camp with packed bags and an optimistic outlook, but I had no idea that being homesick would completely take over. It was my very first sleep-away camp, and although I did have a few friends who went with me, I just couldn’t shake the sadness and worry about being away from my family -- or could I? I’m not the first kid to get homesick, and I certainly won’t be the last, and this camp was totally prepared for kids like me. From the moment we stepped on the bus, they started the so-called fun. There were games and singing and lots of laughing -- but not from me. I was homesick. At camp, they offered swimming and archery and crafts led by enthusiastic counselors, but I didn’t participate. I was too busy being homesick. They even planned a big “Shampoo Party” where we wore our bathing suits into the showers and played with bubbles. It looked like great fun, but I told the counselors that I “couldn’t use different shampoos because they made my hair oily.” Seriously, I really told them that!! See what I mean -- whenever I found myself feeling less homesick and having even a little bit of fun, I would stop and remember that I was too homesick to participate. I even wrote my mom a letter (remember I’m old -- we used to have to mail letters!!) that said, “I need to go now so I can have time to cry myself to sleep.” Luckily, I had a Funny Letters from Camp book at home, so my mom thought I was just joking and didn’t worry. Looking back, I was such a brat, and I’m sure the counselors thought “if she would only stop being so negative, she could have such a great time!”
Are you sometimes my 4th grade self? Do you allow negativity to keep you from a great time? Or for this blog’s sake, do you allow negativity to keep you from communicating effectively? Barbara Frederickson of the University of North Carolina continues to intensively research the effects of positive emotions. To sum up her research (in my own interpretation), negative thinking prevents your brain from seeing options and choices as you are only in survival mode working to get through the situation. Positive thinking - or as Frederickson calls the “Broaden-and-Build Theory” - leads to a greater sense of possibilities with new actions and ideas. The research shows that when you work to be more positive, you become more open to ideas, more curious, more receptive to others, and even more productive. Wow!!! Although I would LOVE to spend the rest of this blog (and then a million others) discussing how we can all be more positive in life, I think I better stick to some ideas about how to be more positive in our communication (the real purpose of my blogs!).
Positive Point #1 (like how I did that??) - Change your words!
This is such a simple but effective way to be more positive. Change “I can’t meet with you on Tuesday” to “I can meet with you on Thursday.” Change “We are unable to meet that deadline.” to “We can complete the project to your complete satisfaction by ______.” Using positive words in face-to-face communication, in emails and texts, and in all written communication reduces conflict, creates that open line of communication, and makes you look more credible.
Positive Point #2 - Give positive reinforcement!
Face it -- we all LOVE the gold star! So work to give out a few of those stars whenever you can. Use phrases like “I admire how you…” or “Thanks so much for …” or “I really enjoy working with you because …” Research also shows that positivity (as well as negativity) can grow and spread. Why don’t you be the positivity-spreader? And put it in writing sometimes -- I guarantee that your coworker will keep it to read again!
etc Strategies believes that creating and promoting positive communication will lead to a happier, more productive personal and professional life. And a few simple strategies can produce BIG results. By the way, for those of you concerned, the next summer I tried summer camp again and had a great time! After a long talk with my mom, I did approach this camp with a more positive attitude, but (to be honest) I think the fact that this camp also had boys probably helped more than the positivity!!