You can create a happier holiday for people this year by telling more positive stories and helping others do the same.
Watch any TV news program, read the front page of a newspaper or visit an online news site and you’ll see evidence of the old adage, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
The producers and editors of media organizations use a form of tragedy triage. The worst stories go first during their 24-hour news cycle. They believe if they can tease the consumer with a fear-based sound bit or headline, they will capture and keep the attention of the viewer. The mental meals they serve are full of misery and the lead story is usually the most destructive thing on the menu.
The impact of negativity consumed daily can create enormous damage to those who watch, read or listen to the messages. Research from the Huffington Post organization shows that just three minutes of negative news in the morning intensifies everything we worry about in our personal lives, and those unhealthy emotions stay with us all day. The negativity also spreads like a virus when those stories are shared with others before, during and after work. Over time, negative news has a negative impact on the health and happiness of our co-workers, clients, family members and friends.
Fortunately, most leaders have stopped or significantly reduced the amount of news coverage they consume. However, it’s not enough for us to eliminate the negative. We must also accentuate the positive every day if we want to improve the health and happiness of those we work with, live with and serve. Like it or not, we are all CEOs of our own media station and the people in our world are the consumers of what we choose to broadcast.
If you want to give the most important people in your life a gift that will make their holiday happier, start every conversation this week with a positive story that’s meaningful to you. These questions will help you create some positive stories to share:
Who are you really grateful to have in your life right now and why? Be specific and sincere. Sharing the ‘who’ without the ‘why’ is factual, but it will not help the other person experience any positive emotions. Your message has to touch someone’s heart before it will have a positive influence on their life.
What do you like? Be aware this holiday of what other people do when someone starts a conversation with what they don’t like, don’t want or don’t have. In most cases, that story triggers a bad news game where the person with the worst story appears to win. “You think that’s bad? Wait till I tell you what happened to me!” In reality, everybody loses when the latest complaint becomes the topic of conversation. When you lead with what you like, you’ll be helping others reflect on what they like as well.
Whose positive behaviors really impressed you this year? It could be a family member who went the extra mile to help you or someone else. A co-worker who worked hard to reach a challenging goal. A stranger who did something nice that was unexpected. Anything that focuses on someone’s positive action will create a positive story. When people listen to negative information that offers no practical solutions to the problems being discussed, individuals, teams and families can start to lose hope that their behavior can create positive change…so why try? When you highlight the positive actions someone took to overcome an obstacle, you reinforce the fact that our behavior really matters.
Your stories do not have to be long. In fact, positive psychology researchers have proven that increasing the frequency of positive news is the key to having a happier and healthier life. Big events, like winning a new client or getting a promotion, create more intense feelings of joy; but increasing the number of ‘micro moments’ of happiness is the key to helping teams thrive and families flourish. Your message just needs to be sincere and meaningful to have a positive influence on the lives of those you lead and love.
After you share your positive story, ask the other person to share theirs. When you do, both of your holidays will be happier. If you continue this habit every week, your new year will be happier too.
Let’s Get Better. Together! Bill Durkin