Featured image by thebusybrain on Flickr
Do you feel like you aren’t enjoying life as much as you could? Do people ever accuse you of being negative? Do you want to become more passionate about life? Here’s a tip for living a more positive life – strive for a small “but”.
How many times have you heard an authority figure – a manager, a parent, a teacher – say something nice about you or your work and you can’t enjoy it because you’re waiting for that, “BUT … ” part of the statement? Have you ever been surprised when it didn’t come, and then found you couldn’t remember the positive things they said because you were focused on defending yourself against a criticism? Here are some ways to get the “but”s out of your own discussions:
1) Replace “but” with “and”
I read once that impromptu actors practice their skills by using one rule when they get together – each person begins their segment with the word “and”. It seems like a simple thing to do,
but and you’d be surprised at how difficult it is to switch that one little word in your responses (see?).
If you do nothing else this week, give this first step a try. When a friend comes to you and asks you to look over a report she wrote, try something like “This is very well organized and easy to follow AND if you changed the wording of the introduction a little it would really grab the reader’s attention so they would absorb every word.” When a co-worker has an idea during a brainstorming session, you could say “That’s pretty creative AND I think we could also …” Responding in a positive way will encourage your friends to seek you out for your feedback.
2) Receive feedback with something other than, “But …”
These points might make more sense with an example, so I’ll share an experience of preparing a speech for a Toastmasters contest. First, let me acknowledge that I am a strange animal because I truly ENJOY public speaking. Joining Toastmasters has given me an opportunity to find my voice and share my thoughts with groups of people. That is not to say that it’s an easy path. While I love talking with people and see public speaking as an extension of that, creating a planned speech that educates, inspires and entertains is difficult.
I brought my fledgling speech to a dear friend and coworker of mine, who suggested that I bring up a point that I had already included. I could have said, “But I talked about that point here, in paragraph 5 …” It was hard not to say that. Instead, I substituted it with “Great! How do I make that point stand out?” This positive response allowed my friend to continue on and give me some excellent suggestions to incorporate. If I hadn’t changed my response, I wouldn’t have received that additional info. He would have closed down, not wanting to offend.
3) Replace “But I can’t do that!” with “I’ll give it a try”
Do you greet new ideas with suspicion and worry that you’ll fail? If so, you might be cheating yourself of growth opportunities. Trying and failing gives us a chance to grow new skills. It also gives us a rich resource for embarrassing stories later, though you might not consider that a positive.
When you give something new a try, you join in the fun others are having. If you approach it with a sense of humor and tell people this is new to you, it gives you a chance to enjoy life more fully with the support of others. Those experiences can help you engage with life more fully rather than sitting on the sidelines. So give something new a try!
There are many benefits of having a small “but” and being more positive. Your friends will seek out your feedback more when you deliberately replace “but” with “and” in your suggestions. You’ll find that others are more willing to collaborate with you when you add to their ideas instead of criticizing them. You’ll open to new experiences that will make your life more meaningful and fun when you try new things.
Will you try one of the steps above this week? Let us know what happens in the comments.