We all have habitual ways of relating to other people, and chances are your habits haven’t changed much over the years. So ask yourself, does the way you communicate and behave foster positive relationships with clients, colleagues, family and friends — or send them running for the nearest exit? Try applying these five tips and see if it improves how you connect with people — and how you feel about yourself, too.
1. Take a good look at yourself. Does it seem like you’re always crossing wires and failing to connect with the people in your life? Look back on your last three encounters with clients or colleagues. What was your demeanor? Were you rushing? Could they have the impression you didn’t want to take the time to talk to them? Did you have good eye contact? Welcoming body language? Did you stand or sit with your arms crossed, or invite communication by leaning in and really listening? What was your tone of voice? Aggressive or calm? Sharp and critical, or pleasant and personable? If you are tense and rigid, that gets communicated as fear or anger — even over the phone. Try taking several deep, slow breaths to relax a bit before your next encounter.
2. Give your inner critic a break. As a lawyer, it’s your job to protect clients, but do you direct a critical eye beyond work? Do you critically assess and comment on all your relationships? Do you tie yourself up in knots if people or situations aren’t always perfect? Look for every little detail that could go wrong? When you catch yourself doing so, step back and try to see the bigger picture. Your demeanor — and your relationships — will change for the better if you train yourself to look for what is going strong instead of what’s going wrong.
3. Tell them what’s going right. Showing appreciation for someone who is doing something right fosters a powerful connection and improves your overall feelings of positivity — even if they are simply doing the job they get paid for. As an example, try thanking your coffee barista for preparing your cup o’ Joe just the way you like it. He will feel happy you noticed, and you may be surprised at how good you will feel, too.
4. Observe your emotions, moods, beliefs and attitudes. Your thoughts create your beliefs, your beliefs create your attitudes, your attitudes create your emotions and your emotions drive your actions. If your thoughts are constantly negative, they will create a downward trajectory for your life and negatively affect your health. You will find yourself feeling contemptuous or disdainful of others, irritable and difficult to be around. Try some rose-colored glasses instead. Learn to savor your positive experiences, express gratitude and appreciation often and, most important, prioritize positivity in your free time. By doing so, you will build an upward spiral of positive emotions — joy, hope, pride, amusement and love.
5. Take time to observe the power of positivity. In each interaction you have — at home, work or play — look for at least one positive thing or attribute in the people you are with. Tell them, if it’s appropriate. Every evening, try to write down at least three positive things you voiced, and the reactions from each person. Once a week, reflect on the favorite things you noticed, and observe how that makes you feel.
Deliberately increasing your positivity will help you build positive social connections and even resilience, improving your attitude and your health. To flourish, research tells us we need to increase the ratio of positive experiences to negative ones to more than 3 to 1. Energy is contagious, so you might as well go for the positive!
Sherry Blair is CEO of ISIS Innovative Specialists Inspirational Services, where she motivates others by applying and encouraging positive psychology and heart-centered leadership. Sherry created The Positivity Pulse brand as a symbol for living a positive and healthy life style at home, work and play. She is trained in Authentic Happiness Positive Psychology Coaching.
Alletta Bayer is Chief Operations Officer of the Positivity Pulse Division of ISIS Innovative Specialists Inspirational Services. She is founder of Nurtured Heart Solutions’ multidisciplined professional coaching and joins with Sherry Blair to create positive workplaces where individuals, leaders and organizations flourish. Alletta holds an MA in Clinical Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.