Try Changing Just One Word

In one of the most thorough academic studies done to date, Barbara Fredrickson, a psychology researcher, at the University of North Carolina, studied the impact of both negative and positive emotions on our ability to make good decisions.  According to her research, not only does cultivating a positive attitude stimulate learning, but letting our minds be filled with either fear or anger, shuts down our ability to learn.  Translated:  Positive Thinking has a lot more positives than just being upbeat and cheerful.

I don’t know about you, but I encounter a lot of “Yes, but…” people.  It really doesn’t matter what you say, their answer tends to be, “Yes, but…”

“That’s a nice rain we received.”

“Yes, but it ruined my golf date.”

“The city is really adding a lot of new businesses.”

“Yes, but we don’t have the infrastructure we need.”

“Cindy is a really good addition to your department.”

“Yes, but she probably won’t stay very long.”

“Yes, but…” may indicate that you are spending way too much time dwelling on negative things.  And it’s often the case that the more you dwell on something, the larger it becomes in your mind.  What’s more, Barbara Fredrickson’s research suggests that the very mindset of “Yes, but…” limits your ability to learn.  And if you can’t keep learning, you’re probably going to miss out on future opportunities, and the cycle of negative emotions is going to just become more and more entrenched in your thinking.

How do we fight this tendency?  One option is to intentionally think and vocalize “Yes, and…” statements.  You can tell both yourself and others, “Yes, and…”

For example, if you think, “I’d like to go to Florida for the holiday,” you might respond to yourself, “Yes, but I don’t have enough money.”  However, you can write another narrative by saying something like, “Yes, and someday I’m going to do that after I finish paying off my debt.”  Notice that both responses acknowledge the fact that you don’t have enough money to go to Florida. However, one response reflects a very negative attitude, “I’d like to, but I can’t…”

On the other hand, the “Yes, and…” response also remembers another reality.  It acknowledges that you have chosen to do something else with your money: Pay off debt.

There are a lot of “conversations” that you have with yourself every day, and you’d probably be surprised at how many of them are “Yes, but…” conversations.  If you are in that habit, you may be unknowingly hindering your own ability to excel because of your attitude.  As simple as it seems, you might be surprised at what a difference trading three little letters might make.

Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Director of Leadership Development, Strategic Government Resources

4 responses

  1. Another homerun. There is a lot we have to UNlearn in order to adopt and maintain a positive mindset. So worth the effort.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Enna. Leaders have to be life-long learners and part of that certainly means keeping in the right frame of mind.

      1. Yes. And sometimes its good to have a friendly reminder. (Like this one)

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