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How You Can Become An Optimist Easily

How You Can Become An Optimist Easily

Why all this talk about how you can become an optimist easily?  The answer is that optimism is one of the essential ingredients that makes you successful. That is what Jeffrey Garten, Dean of the Yale School of Management found when he interviewed the top most successful entrepreneurs in the world. Yes, all 40 of these CEOs were optimistic.

As if this was not enough, optimism is the gateway to better health and a more active, rewarding social life. Being an optimist means that you are less likely to get a heart attack or cancer. This research was carried out at The University of Pennsylvania.

Before beginning, take the optimism test which has been devised by the BBC Horizon TV program.

How did you do? If you got full marks, there is no need to read on! If you got a low score, stay on this page because I am going to give you 12 useful tips on how to become optimistic.

1.Don’t let past failures stalk you

In many ways, you can be a prisoner of your past as you keep on carrying past failures with you, like heavy luggage. Convince yourself that these failures are a closed book and that you need to throw out this unwanted trash. Not that the lessons learned from failures should be forgotten!

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Look at Oprah Winfrey. She was told she was not suitable for television. Thomas Edison had to cope with 6,000 failures before succeeding in making the first electric light bulb.

2. Time for stock-taking

First, think of all the positive things in your life. Note them down on a list. Then in a second column write the obstacles, problems and failures. This second list is essential as you can note with asterisks what was the lesson learned from each of those debacles. You are now coming round to the idea that failure is part and parcel of life. But you need to be upbeat and confident. Onwards and upwards.

“No matter where you are on your journey, that’s exactly where you need to be. The next road is always up” – Oprah Winfrey

3. Think positively

When you look at the list again, you notice that the list of positive things will be longer. There are so many things to be grateful for. Many potential failures became successes. Look at your achievements again. Think about your positive character traits.

4. Optimism empowers you

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier”- General Hillier

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General Hillier was well known for advocating how important it was to remain optimistic when soldiers faced terrible dangers in Afghanistan. He told his staff that it was their duty to display optimism and communicate that to their soldiers. This is the path to success. In addition, optimism costs nothing!

5. Try smiling

“Smile, it’s free therapy” – Douglas Horton

Try scowling at people and you get nowhere! Try smiling and see what happens. You will most probably get a smile in return. Smiling brings loads of benefits. Study after study shows that it can help you live longer, cut stress and even boost your competence. Your popularity will rocket. It will also help you to remain cheerful. Zero cost!

6. Limit your exposure to bad news

We are surrounded by negative news, 24/7. Turn on the TV, computer or smartphone and there is a deluge of tragedy, extreme weather, death, destruction, crime and injustice. If you watch or absorb too much, it will drown your positive thoughts.  Pessimism will start taking a hold.

7. Give yourself a present

Think of an achievement you have had at work or in a personal relationship. Celebrate your success by praising yourself. But this is just not for successful achievements. If you can apply this to how you have cleverly analyzed a screw up, then you really are on a winning streak. If you find yourself saying: – ‘OK, I screwed up but I now know why- it was because I forgot to do X, was misled by Y and was careless about Z’. Now that really deserves a prize because you are poised for success the next time round.

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8. Build on your success

The next time you face a challenge, list your achievements to date. Each success is a milestone along the path of life. Just by keeping this in mind, you can remain optimistic. It also helps your self-esteem.

9.Think big

If you are an optimist, going for gold is no problem. You just have to watch out for the cynics and the pessimists along the way. There is nothing to be ashamed of in aiming for the stars.

“Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it– Daniel Dennett

10. Put negative events into perspective

Inevitably, things go wrong sometimes. This is a fluke and not likely to be a regular occurrence. It is a one-off!

11.Use the power of language

If you have to lead a team or even manage a personal relationship, it is vital to be able to use conversations as vehicles in which you can inspire and motivate people to embrace optimism. There is no substitute for a real live conversation.

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12.  Focus on the solutions

You meet pessimists every day at work. They are the ones who complain and start telling you about all the obstacles, problems and difficulties. If you are an optimist, you will be able to use upbeat language and start to find a solution. Once your brain is wired into thinking about solutions, answers and success, you will be much more optimistic.

Before you get up every morning, think about why today is going to be a great day. Say to yourself: ‘Today is the day I am going to achieve X, Y and Z’. It is a great way to start the day and you will never look back.

 “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” – Helen Keller

Featured photo credit: Thumb up from Laura/ Active Steve via Flickr

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More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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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!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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