Inspiring Positivity in Others - Michelle Gielan

My notes of the Peak Work Performance Summit session with Michelle Gielan, author of the book Broadcasting happiness - The science of igniting and sustaining positive change:

  • Tips for staying positive throughout the day, even when things are not going your way or working with a toxic colleague
  • How to deliver bad news, and what to say to your team when you have to let someone go

We are all constantly broadcasting information to other people. What we choose to broadcast transforms how people perceive us. Small tweaks can have ripple effects on how people see us and also how they see themselves.

Negative messages (e.g. news) can have negative effects on our levels of energy, our stress level and the way we see the world. What you choose to watch in the morning can have a huge effect on the rest of your day.

Benefits of being positive at work: Optimists believe that their behavior matters, they expect good things to happen, and are much more likely to take the action that needs to be taken to create those outcomes. If you can increase your sense of optimism, you can increase all sorts of business outcomes (productivity, profitability, etc.).

Interventions to transform our own brain:

  • Gratitude, write down 3 things you're grateful for, each day for a period of 21 days
  • Journal for 2 minutes each day about the most meaningful moment of the past 24 hours

How to engage others to do these same behaviors at the same time to get a multiplier effect? Start a communication with someone else on a positive note. e.g. I'm stressed vs. I'm fine (neutral - missed opportunity) vs. I'm doing really great today, I had breakfast with my son and he was so funny this morning. It's something very simple that gives others a window into your world, and sets the stage and tone of the rest of the conversation.

Sometimes we believe that being a bit stressed or pessimistic is beneficial to our work. Definition of optimism is the belief that your behavior matters, and seeing the nature of events as temporary and local. Versus pessimism being permanent and pervasive. E.g. loosing a job: optimist will go faster towards updating their resumé, versus pessimist will get longer to do that (but will do it eventually). Both see reality, but have a complete different take on what they can do about it. Pessimism can be very beneficial for e.g. attorneys (finding issues), but not for most activities.

One negative discussion is not a problem, but it is if the discussion is repeated. In that case it's not productive. You can ask what about the issue is bothering them, how else can we see the solution. E.g. kids coming back from school, how was your day: "fine", vs. asking "what was the best part of your day" which trains the brain for higher levels of optimism.

Dealing with negative and toxic people: with the vast majority of people we can change the way they act. For those that don't change, employ the Strategic Retreat strategy:

  • Retreat: stop the negative discussion you are having, take a retreat from them
  • Regroup: Do positive activities that will affect your brain positively, such as gratitude or journaling about a meaningful moment. Or send a positive email (2 minutes) to someone new each day for 21 days, friends, family.
  • Reenter: 2 minute reentry drill, e.g. pass by the office and "good to see you", ask what you needed them for, then get out of the office. Don't increase exposure if that's not necessary. The goal is to get a good track record of positive engagements with them, when the tide has turned you can increase the number and length of the exposure to them. Also, interacting with them in an open environment with other people is better than behind a closed door.

Delivering bad news

It's about being human with them. Negative news is dishearting, can create fear. The 4 C's.

  • Social Capital: invest in your bank account, which you can withdraw from when you have bad news
  • Give Context: Explain exactly what is going on, without focusing too much on the negative side.
  • Expressing Compassion: Use feeling words, I understand that this is hard, I want you to know that we're in it together.
  • Staying Committed: Creating an action plan, steps that we will take together to improve the situation. Great time to involve other people who might have other ideas.

Delivering bad news, if done correctly, can be a way for building closeness in a relationship. Focus on the fact that this is temporary. Show people the places where they have control on the situation.

Processing time is necessary, but it quickly turns into rumination which is a waste of time and energy. Exercising and fact checking can help you get out of rumination. Finding out why you feel this way, and searching for possible solutions to get out of that situation.

When someone has been let go, tell them what you can while comforting them that this is an isolated event, so that they don't fear that this might happen to them randomly as well.

Review my other notes from the Peak Work Performance Summit.