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Rod Webb

Glasstap Limited

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

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Optimism as a Skill


Did you know that there are more negative words than positive words in the English language? 

The capacity to emphasise the negative, rather than the positive, might be an evolutionary phenomenon stemming from the need to be risk aware. Whatever the reasons, a lot of research, including that carried out by Roy F Bauminster, Kathleen Vohs and others has concluded that negative experiences, or the fear of them, have a greater impact on most people’s behaviour than positive experiences. Other research suggests that the messages we receive from others are often overwhelmingly negative, which in turn shape our beliefs, which in turn shape our actions and, ultimately, shape what we achieve in life.

I believe that optimism is a skill that can be learned like any other; indeed, I think both pessimism and optimism are learned behaviours. 

Does it make a different to performance if people are optimistic or pessimistic? Of course it does. Who would you rather work for? An optimistic manager who believes you can achieve great things and embraces new ideas and change, or the pessimist who doesn’t believe that you’re likely to achieve much, knocks down every new idea, and spends time in meetings playing ‘devil’s advocate’?

What impact would it have on team spirit and team success if the people in it were more optimistic? What if they focused on the positive, rather than the negative, used positive language, and looked for opportunities to say yes, thank you and well done? 

Some Great Activities from Trainers' Library:
There are some great training activities in Trainers’ Library that will help you develop optimism skills. Here are a few that are fun, impactful and very quick to run:

Half Full? – A Look at Optimism and its Importance
This module provides an excellent opportunity to consider how attitude can impact on performance.

Bouncing Back – The Nature of Resilience
An opportunity to think about what resilience is, and the characteristics of resilient people. 

Happy (Half) Hour
A simple exercise that encourages participants to think about what makes their team special.

Reach for the Stars – Praise and Self-Esteem
What happens if we believe we can do better?

And Finally:
Here’s another idea for your personal awareness and development:

To help you think about the way you communicate with others during the rest of today, whether that’s work colleagues, members of your family or your friends, put a small tray on your desk and place ten coins in it. 

Every time you say something negative (or say something positive, whilst thinking something negative) take a coin out of the tray. Every time you say something positive, and mean it, about how someone makes you feel, or something they’ve done, put a coin back in the tray. 

If you find yourself scrabbling around for extra coins at the end of the day, give yourself a pat on the back. Chances are, you’re pretty positive to be around.

Rod Webb

Thanks for Reading:
I love feedback, of all kinds, so please do leave a comment below. Finally, for loads of helpful tips and ideas from me and the team, follow us on Twitter @glasstaplimited. 

Author Profile Picture
Rod Webb

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

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