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What Are You Talking About?

What have you been talking about this week? If you’re like most leaders, it’s hard to answer this question with a high degree of certainty. So much of our day-to-day work is done with our brain on automatic pilot.

Many leaders are in a reactive mode most of the time, and it’s very difficult to remember the words or phrases used when fighting real or perceived fires.

If someone followed you around for a week and recorded all of your conversations, what do you think they would discover? According to some positive psychologists, the tapes would reveal the statements and stories of a lot of individuals are focused on what’s not working in their world. This doesn’t mean they’re negative people. It just means they’ve developed the habit of talking about problems more than solutions, being critical of someone or something, and focusing on issues outside their control. The consequence of this type of behavior is way more damaging to their careers and their health than they think. The negative news these people unconsciously share also acts like a virus that infects and influences others to complain about some aspect of their life.

On the other hand, if the reporter following you around discovered the content of what you say focused more on the positive, your relationships, your results and your health would be much better. The uplifting stories you choose to tell would also inspire your team and family to promote what’s working well in their world.

Like it or not, we’re all the CEO, anchor and investigative reporter of our own news program that is being broadcast every morning, afternoon and evening. We are the ones who have to decide what stories to promote to the people who are listening to what we say.

Even if your answer to the question, “What are you talking about?” is mostly positive, I believe we can all get better at helping others reduce complaining and increase the time they spend sharing positive stories.

I’m not suggesting we ignore the problems in our life. Optimists are realists and problem-solvers. They stay focused on what they can do to make the situation better, they believe their behavior matters, and they expect to be successful. Pessimists focus on issues outside their circle of influence, they believe their behavior won’t help them win, and their excuses become more important than their actions.

The people we work with, live with and serve need more positive examples in their life. I believe they want to be influenced and challenged by leaders to accentuate and appreciate the positive things in their life.

No one really feels good after hearing negative news or feels empowered to do their best after listening to someone express their dissatisfaction or resentment.

What if you encouraged and challenged everyone on your team and in your family to stop complaining for one week and only tell positive stories?

What if you asked everyone to share more facts next week about the root cause of their success in the past and how they can use their God-given strengths to reach worthy goals in the future?

What if you started every conversation for one week by asking the other person, “What’s gone well for you today?”

If you can get the people you lead and love to do this “positive” exercise for one week, they’ll discover their words can make their world a better place to work and live.

Let’s Get Better. Together! Bill Durkin


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