Expressing the Positive

Positive thinking is certainly a powerful thing, but positive expression is equally important.

Many people, especially marriage partners, parents of small children and, occasionally, some bosses, seem to believe that the best way to get somebody to change for the better is to consistently point out to them what they are doing wrong.

These authority figures criticize, day in and day out. Eventually the people they are talking to become frustrated and often start to feel angry, because they see that nothing they say or do has any positive effect. Sometimes they just shut it out. And sometimes, things even get worse. Has this ever happened to you? If it has, there is a principle of cognitive psychology that you will want to know about. It’s simply this: We move toward and become like what we think about. And we automatically behave in ways that match the image we have of our capabilities and ourselves.

When you focus on what is going wrong, you tend to experience more of the problem. And when you focus on the solution, you move toward it, just as surely as day follows night. You are creating a new picture to move toward, and not just giving the old one a re-tread. So instead of telling folks what they are doing wrong, why not tell them what they are doing right? Instead of telling them what the problem is, why not tell them what the solution looks like and how it will benefit them personally?

And while you’re at it, why not tell them how much you enjoy and appreciate the thoughtful or bright or funny things they say and do. Remember the behavior that you focus on and praise tends to be repeated.