The news seems inundated with messages of doom and gloom, negative rhetoric and finger pointing. CNN recently claimed that a large number of Americans were suffering from post-election stress trauma on both sides of the political spectrum.
If you feel the weight of world coming down on you, bring some light back into your life by simply reframing negative thoughts into positive-intent perspectives.
1. Take Inventory of What You Think
Pay attention to when you start feeling resentment creeping into your thoughts and a negative attitude starts to fester in response to a situation or another person. Pause for a moment and consider another way of looking at the situation that would assume positive intent.
Imagine this scene: The cashier at your local grocery store is slow in ringing you up and bagging your goods and you are short on time. You feel your anxiety level rise and your internal commentary is firing on all cylinders. Take quick inventory of the intent of your thoughts. Are you quick to label the person ringing up your groceries? What is the story you are telling yourself about the person? If your story is dark and blaming, how does that impact your mood?
2. Find Positive Intent
Now take two long breaths. What if the cashier is doing the absolute best she can this very moment – just for you? What shift is you focus on being grateful that you can buy the things the cashier is ringing up. Maybe the cashier is taking her time because she wants to make sure she is not making any mistakes. This expansion of time at this place allows to notice the color of her hair, notice the shape of her eyes. What might you not know about this person that makes her special and unique? Do you notice a shift in your attitude?
3. Take Positive Action
Now that you have found a positive story for the situation you found yourself in, take action to reflect the positive shift. You can start by simply smiling at your conscientious cashier. How about a positive verbal expression? How about wishing her a great day and saying her name?
The next time you find yourself in a situation, you cannot change – discover something – anything – positive in it and see where that leads you. I hope it will be a bright and positive place!
During a recent workshop around the topic of Cultivating Organizational Well-Being: Good for Your Business, I had the pleasure of talking to an engaged group of professionals about the skills involved with Listening for Understanding.
The quick takeaways are:
- Listening to learn more
Ask non-leading, open-ended questions. Use “how” and “what” questions that allow the speaker to further explain their perspective. Avoid “why” questions.
Example: I am curious to hear more about what lead you to this statement? What are your personal experiences with this topic? What was your personal take-away from that situation?
- Listening for shared meaning
Restate key points and ask for clarification if you are not sure if you heard something correctly.
Example: What I heard you say is … When you said abc, it makes me think zyz, is that what you meant?
- Listening for agreement
Confirm where you share the perspective and agree with a point.
- Listening for new information
Let the speaker know if you learned something new and if you feel inspired to gather more information about a topic.
After you have met the speaker on his or her side of the situation, offer your perspective and any potential concerns. Make room for different opinions and perspectives. And simply acknowledge the disagreement.
I did the unthinkable and brought politics into the conversation and the lack of Listening for Understanding that most public discourses exhibit. The audience’s response was amazing and encouraging. It made me wonder what may happen if more people practiced their Active Listening skills – at all levels of interactions involving differences of perspective and opinion, which given that we are all uniquely human would be pretty much all the time.
So here is my offer to the community: You find a group of 20 people in the Washington Metropolitan area interested in learning and practicing Listening for Understanding and I will come and we will break down communication barriers together. What do you think?