Today, I would like to cover a subject, which isn’t always the most popular. This is the subject of negativity and how to not let it get you down. In general, we tend to focus on the negative versus the positive in situations that we find ourselves in. We tend to get down on ourselves much more than we tend to validate, congratulate and brag about ourselves. But there is something very key here, which is “What you put your attention on is what you get”. What does this mean? It means that what we focus on gets bigger and more important. So if I focus on, let’s say as a silly example, how annoying my co-worker is because of their constant loud gum chewing. What’s going to happen? It’s going to get more and more loud and annoying to me, until that’s all I can see and think about when they come around. I don’t pay any attention to or even see the fact that they do a great job on their projects, they’re always respectful, on time and dressed nicely. No, all I see and know about them is that they are obnoxious gum chewers!
Do you see how harmful and detrimental this could be in a work setting or any life situation? It could make a person feel miserable, and always critical of others! It could eventually take the beauty and fun out of life because all they see and put their attention on is the negative. They see their co-workers as annoying, their boss as too pushy, their spouse as too… whatever, their kids as too loud and unruly, their friends as who knows what, etc! I don’t know about you, but I would not want to live that life! It sounds miserable. But what’s worse is that it’s all being created by them just because of this mindset and habit of focusing too much on the negative. Can you see that?
So what do you do? What is the right way to go about this? How do you enjoy your job, boss, co-workers, family and friends?
You focus on the good! Because again, “What you put your attention on is what you get”. How do you go about focusing on the good? Well it’s a mindset. It’s intentionally focusing on being positive and concentrating on the good things around you… and commenting on THOSE instead of the negative things.
But don’t get me wrong, there ARE truly wrong, bad, lazy and unfair situations in life. And those DO need to be corrected. We can’t just ignore them, otherwise they could jeopardize us and our loved ones. But there ARE ways to handle that, which I will cover later on in this writing.
Firstly though, how do you go about giving needed constructive criticism? There are three steps. First, validate and acknowledge the person on one or two things that they really are doing well and correctly. And THEN bring up the ONE, most important point to correct them on. Don’t suddenly give them 8 different things they’re doing wrong all in one conversation. This is going to totally overwhelm and bring them down. They’re going to think they can’t do ANYTHING right and might want to give up or quit right there. This isn’t fair to them or you, as you still need them to be there, working and helping on the project. After all, they normally do more good than bad, but they have now been so beaten down with criticisms and corrections that they feel crushed, nit-picked and lost.
Have you ever had that happen to you? Do you remember how it felt?
Right. So it’s really not the best way to go about doing things. What we want to do is bolster the person up by letting them know that we recognize the fact that they are doing this and that correctly and that we just noticed this one thing could be tweaked. We then point out and tell them the most key correction needed and make sure they see how they could improve in that area. Then, encourage them by letting them know that overall, they’re doing a great job, you’re happy they’re there and to keep it up! You do all this in a genuine and upbeat manner.
So an actual conversation might go like this, you walk up to them, and in an upbeat manner say, “Hi Joe! I was just looking over some of your work and wanted to chat with you. Do you have a few minutes? (“Yes”). “Great, I saw your analysis on the water sewage problem and thought it was spot on! You did a great job getting those statistics! I happened to notice one thing that could be tweaked on another report you submitted, which was about the recycling program, and just wanted to make sure you included WHY we don’t recycle plastic shopping bags in future newsletters, so the residents really understand the logic on it and will be less likely to put them in the recycling bins… it seems like if they really understood why we don’t want it, they would stop doing it, make sense? (“Oh yeah, I see what you mean”). Great! Well, keep up the good work, we’re really happy you’re here and appreciate you being part of the team!”
Does this make sense? Do you see how Joe will be able to accept this correction pretty well and make the needed adjustment in the future?
The next thing I want to go over is how do you receive these corrections? If you’re the one sitting there and your boss comes up to you and starts correcting you, how do you accept it, learn from it even and improve your work?
Although it can be very hard to not get upset or feel too bad about being “wrong”, try to really listen to what they’re saying and see how you could truly improve on it. If anything, you will get more skilled on that point and can do a better job in the future. This can lead to getting more projects, more kudos, a promotion, raise, bonus, etc. Who knows! And be grateful that they took the time to correct you to help give you the upper hand instead of just ignoring you or doubting you could improve. If you’re able to be the best you can be and always keep learning, then there’s nothing that can truly stop you.
Lastly, one might ask, “What if someone just criticizes me out of the blue, with no real purpose besides to be mean, such as telling me I’m getting fat, my haircut is awful, I’m a bad parent, etc. Do I have to accept that and try to learn from that too?”
Well I sure wouldn’t! I would spot the person who treated me like that as bad news, tell them “You sound kind of critical of me.” and walk away. You don’t need that type of negativity in your life. You don’t have to pay attention to it, because as we initially went over, “What you put your attention on is what you get”. So I would go and put my attention on nicer, friendlier people who really cared about me and my best interests, and thus end up with more of those types of people in my life, versus the critical people who want to randomly bring me down.
I hope this makes sense for you and you have learned something from this! Try it out and feel free to let me know how it goes!