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Positive or Negative? It’s Your Choice

Source | LinkedIn : By Daniel Goleman

Larry David created the TV hits Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. While David lived most of his life in Los Angeles, he came from Brooklyn. One year, while filming a show in New York City, he went to a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. During a lull in the game, cameras sent his image up to gigantic Jumbotron screens. The entire stadium of fans stood to cheer him. Later that evening, as David was leaving, someone leaned out of a passing car and yelled, “Larry, you suck!” On his way home, David obsessed about that comment, wondering who the guy was, why he would say something like that. It was as though those fifty thousand adoring fans didn’t exist, just that one critical guy.

Focus on the Negative… or the Positive?

You probably know people like David, those who regularly focus on the negative instead of the positive in any situation. Replaying negative thoughts over and over in your head does more than make you unhappy in the moment. Research shows that such ruminating rewires your brain to make it easier for you to think negative thoughts in the future. Just like walking across a lawn beats down a path in the grass, repeated negative thinking builds up the pathway between the parts of your brain that attend to the negative.

Fortunately, the reverse is also true. Focusing on the positive can build your capacity for seeing the good around you.

High Performing Leaders Have a Positive Outlook

Being skilled at seeing the positive, even in adverse situations, is one aspect of emotional intelligence that distinguishes high performing leaders. Sigal Barsade, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, mentioned this in a recent Harvard Business Review article. She referred to research that shows the connection between positive emotions and better performance, quality, and customer service. This is true regardless of role, industry, or organizational level.

Positive Outlook is one of twelve emotional and social intelligence competencies I explore with colleagues in my forthcoming video series, Crucial Competence: Building Emotional and Social Leadership. Leaders with this skill recognize the opportunity in every situation and see other people positively. Looking ahead, they expect changes in the future to be for the better.

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