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Why People Who Are Sullen From Time To Time Are Happier People

Why People Who Are Sullen From Time To Time Are Happier People

Happiness is not always a good thing. And when you think about it, this fact should be obvious. All pleasures in life, whether food or games or company, become negative things when taken to extremes. So why should happiness itself be an exception?

Studies have shown the potential downsides of excessive happiness. According to the Association for Psychological Science, researchers have found “that people who are feeling extreme amounts of happiness may not think as creatively and also tend to take more risks.”

So, if you feel sullen from time to time, you should take some pride in it. For here are some ways in which being grouchy can make you a better person overall.

You are more creative

We all know the stereotype of the miserable, starving artist who produces great cultural works. Just think of Vincent van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, or Franz Kafka. Even Aristotle wondered why outstanding artists and philosophers all appeared to be melancholy.

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In 2010, researcher Modupe Akinola conducted a study which further correlated negative emotions with high creativity. Akinola induced positive and negative emotions in two different groups by either praising or criticizing their hopes and dreams. She then had the groups get to work building collages, at which point the collages were evaluated by professional artists.

The artists found that the collages created by those with negative emotions were superior.

Why is this the case? Australian psychologist Joe Forgas argues that those with negative emotions can focus better on details and are more attentive, which leads to better artistic work.

Creativity by its very nature requires someone to step away from the mass of humanity and create something which will stand apart. Stepping off that path can lead to loneliness and then misery. But it can also lead to great things being accomplished, which can explain why those poor artists who accomplish so much exist.

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You are a better decision maker

Forgas has also found that unhappy people have other advantages beyond a superior focus on details. In 2009, he conducted an experiment to test their overall mental capabilities.

Forgas showed people films and asked them to think about thoughts which would put them in a happy or unhappy mood. Then he had them take part in a series of tasks, including judging the truth of urban myths and providing eyewitness accounts of events.

Forgas found that those in an unhappier mood did a better job at accurately judging what was true and what was not. He noted that negative thinking promoted “careful thinking” and that unhappy people paid better attention to the outside word. They also made better communicators and writers compared to happy people.

As noted above, happy people tend to take more risks because the negative emotions which may make them more adverse to risk are weaker, making them much more expensive insurance prospects. If that is combined with a negative person’s superior focus on details, that can help better understand the choices behind a decision.

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You will strive more than happy people

Sullen people, by their very nature, are not happy with the way things are. This means that they are more willing to advance and change themselves to improve their prospects compared to happy people who are content to remain as they are.

In one study, psychologist Edward Diener found that college freshman who identified themselves as very happy earned about $3,500 less in their late 30s compared to their colleagues who were not as happy. Diener suggested that it was this very happiness which contributed to these smaller earnings, as the unhappy people were more inclined to change careers or improve their education in order to progress.

It is those who are not content who change the course of human history. Washington and the Founding Fathers were unhappy with British taxes and regulations on their way of life, and thus they founded a nation. Martin Luther King Jr. was unhappy with the treatment of his fellow African Americans, and thus fought to change it.

Perseverance and striving for a better world often requires someone who is sullen with the things they are. That striving leads to greater happiness both for the individual and the greater community.

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You do not always need to be happy

For our entire lives, we have been told that we have a right to be happy. But, as we look at all seven billion people in this planet, can you truly believe that every single one of these seven billion can attain constant happiness?

No. It is impossible. And that is perfectly fine.

Happiness is like a breeze or a puff of smoke. The harder you try to grasp it, the more easily it slips between your fingers. And sometimes, a sullen individual can think better, plan better, and dream for a different route which will lead to more happiness over the long run.

Featured photo credit: Clemens v. Vogelsang via flickr.com

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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