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How to Stay Positive for Winning Relationships

It’s tough to stay positive when things around you are volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous. I’ve recently been working with a client, who was struggling with just this kind of work environment. Things were changing around her and she was no longer sure what she was responsible for. It certainly didn’t seem like it was the things she’d been recruited to deliver on. She felt she was no longer being heard by her colleagues or the top team. All this was affecting her self-confidence, resulting in her not being willing to speak up.

Stay positive beliefsThis situation is not that uncommon in turbulent circumstances and there were a couple of techniques I thought would help her immediately to stay positive. That positive outlook results in a more open mind and behaviours that are more likely to deliver positive results.

Repeat your message

One technique was the simple recognition that, when you want someone to change or take a new course of action, it’s not unusual for it to take 5 to 15 times of repeating the message before it really sinks in. Most of us give up after about 3 attempts, so we don’t stand a chance of our message really being understood.   She recognised that she expected people to listen, hear and understand in one or two repetitions and thought that her view was not wanted if she got no response. She will now be more persistent, especially when she strongly believes in her proposal.

ABC approach to staying positive

The other was the ABC model: Adversity – Belief – Consequences. For those interested, this was developed by Dr Albert Ellis, psychologist, and made more popular by Martin Seligman, Positive Psychologist.

Imagine this scene: You are working late (again) and there are a few others in the office. Dave is leaving and says to Paul, “We’re off to the pub, join us!” But he doesn’t say anything to you.

You feel put out because you’ve been ignored and think ‘They don’t like me, I’m an outsider”.

Subsequently, you put no effort into getting to know them better and are pointedly busy when working late, using your body language to discourage approaches.

What is going on here?

A There was an adverse event Dave didn’t include you
B You reacted to it emotionally in the moment and told yourself a story about the event, when you formed a belief about the situation Feel put out and ignored“They don’t like me, I’m an outsider”
C  which consequently led to subsequent behaviour to prove your story/belief right No effort to get to know them, pointedly busy, discourage approaches

Let’s run this scene again:

You are working late (again) and there are a few others in the office. Dave is leaving and says to Paul, “We’re off to the pub, join us!” But he doesn’t say anything to you.

You notice that you feel put out, then say to yourself, ‘but I was clearly engrossed and not ready to leave and I don’t really know Dave, so he probably didn’t want to disturb me.’ You smile at Paul as he leaves and say, “see you tomorrow”, he responds and asks, “If you’re done, maybe you’d like to come too?”

The positive thinking and belief formed lead to such different consequences – which would you rather have?

Stay Positive

To stay positive, I recommend using the ABC model in the moment to check your ‘story’ and make sure you are not making unfounded assumptions and reacting to those negatively. The initial feeling may come up instantly, but take a moment to check why you are responding that way and when you notice it is unreasonable, tell yourself a different story with a positive belief. You will find you rapidly feel more positive and behave positively.

You can also use the ABC model to analyse past events and reconstruct them. This is especially worth doing with any adverse event, where the consequences are still being played out. You still have time to recover that relationship and get back onto a positive footing.

If you would like to find out more, please contact Amanda. I also welcome your comments below.

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  • Dara says:

    Thank you for this ABC technique – I recently had such an experience. I had a client that wasn’t responding to my messages and I thought she was unhappy with the level of service I was providing. I could have stayed on that negative thought, but chose to imagine a narrative that perhaps something wasn’t right at her end. Maybe a personal reason for her disengagement. So I sent her a message asking if I could take her out for coffee just to see how she was. She responded immediately and it turned out that far from being unhappy with my services she somehow felt that she didn’t deserve them. Consequently I feel that I understand her better and can now engage with her on a different and deeper level.

  • Amanda Bouch says:

    Thanks Dara, good to hear about this technique in action. I regularly check my thinking by asking myself what story I’m imagining and what else it could be. It keeps me sane!

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