Are You Broadcasting Happiness?

Disrupt Negative Thinking and Revamp Your Broadcast

 

Do you know someone who is always negative?

Is it possible to inspire happiness in others?

 

Michelle Gielan, former national CBS News anchor turned positive psychology researcher, is the best-selling author of Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change. She is the Founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research.

I recently had the opportunity to ask speak with her about her fascinating research into happiness, positivity, and our impact on others.

 

How positive you are on social media depends on your news feed so choose your friends wisely.

 

Create Positive Change

You’ve been a successful broadcaster at CBS News. But your work now is about a different type of broadcasting. You say we broadcast happiness and that creates positive change in those around us. How did this realization come to you?

People talk about how negative the news can be—and they are right. As the anchor of two national news programs at CBS, I saw how not only were the stories largely negative but also told in a disempowering way. We rarely talked about potential solutions.

At the height of the recession, we started broadcasting solutions for every problem we featured. We called it Happy Week. Drawing on positive psychology, the series centered on actions taken to foster happiness (and quite frankly peace of mind!) during some of our biggest financial challenges.

We received the greatest viewer response of the year, but more importantly, this was a powerful example of research in action. I wanted to know more about creating empowerment in others—so I quit to study positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Now as a positive psychology researcher, I see the toxic effects of a constant stream of negative news on the brain. In a study I conducted with researcher Shawn Achor and Arianna Huffington, we found that watching just three minutes of negative news in the morning can lead to a 27% increased chance of you having a bad day as reported 6-8 hours later. The negative mindset we adopt first thing sticks with us all day.

 

Study: Watching 3 minutes of negative news in the morning increases the likelihood of a bad day.

 

But CBS News also showed me a better way—which is something I now share at talks at companies and organizations—specifically how to talk about the negative in a way that leaves people feeling empowered and ready to act. In our follow-up study published in Harvard Business Review, we found that by pairing a discussion of problems with solutions, you can fuel creative problem solving in someone else by 20%. For managers, this means you can talk about the negative without decimating your team.

Looking at all this research, I had an epiphany: we are all broadcasters. What’s your broadcast? As you move throughout your day talking to your colleagues, family and friends, where do you focus their attention? Some facts and stories fuel success; others don’t. In my book Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change, I share the science and tools to disrupt negative thinking and revamp our broadcast to fuel success at work and beyond.

Using the science, our clients have been able to increase sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars. Personally, I’m so happy I now get to broadcast these kinds of stories about individuals and organizations creating positive change. This is so much more inspiring.

 

Study: Optimists at work are 5x less likely to burn out than the pessimist.

 

The Work Optimist, you point out, is five times less likely to burn out and three times more engaged than the pessimist. Is it possible to move up the continuum and be more positive? What techniques work to do this?

Michelle GielanYes! The most inspiring thing about the results of our research is that many of the elements of our mindset that predict success, like Work Optimism, are malleable. Work optimism is the belief that good things can happen, especially in the face of challenges, and that our behavior matters. We created a validated assessment that tests people on their levels of Work Optimism and two other predictors of long-term success at work.

If you find you’re scoring lower than you wish on Work Optimism, you can adopt a simple 30 second habit: Use the Power Lead. Make sure your lead sentence in conversations or meetings at work is positive. If you start conversations with how tired, sick, or stressed you feel, your body follows, as does the rest of the conversation.

We are taught to mimic the social patterns of others, so if someone starts a sales call with, “I’ve been swamped lately,” then both individuals start to feel more stressed and overwhelmed, which can oftentimes kill the sale. In our fast-paced world, you might have time to relay only one piece of social information at work. If you make it negative, then you get stuck in that pattern. Power leads can be simple, such as answering “How are you?” with some good news, such as, “Doing great! Had an awesome weekend with the family. My daughter scored a goal at lacrosse!”

 

“Cultivate happiness and you’re cultivating success at the same time.” –Michelle Gielan

 

What are a few ways to become a better broadcaster, able to motivate and communicate with power and results?

Leaders: Choose Your Season

Time to Pause

This morning I went for a walk in the woods behind my house. It’s that time of year when winter’s line is blurring into spring, and spring is beginning to win. The trees remain leafless, and yet, if you look closely enough, you can see the tiniest hints of green scattered here and there. Days are beginning to shift and I feel the restlessness of nature. A slight wind is at first cold and biting before it shifts to a warm, teasing breeze. Walking to the back of the house, I glance up and watch quietly as a small bird ducks under the deck, carrying twigs to make a nest. Spring, undoubtedly, is on the way.

The changing of the seasons. I’m not sure why, but it makes me stop and think more. It’s time for a pause, a look back and a look ahead.  Spring is an exciting time, filled with new possibilities.  To fully take advantage of its hope, we need to discard what we are carrying to free us to take on new opportunities.

 

“You cannot change the seasons, but you can change yourself.” –Jim Rohn

 

Behind us, let’s leave:

  • The ideas of yesterday that didn’t work.
  • The insults and criticisms that others launched, still clawing at us.
  • The clutter of our lives. Yes, spring cleaning allows us to remove the physical clutter. But don’t stop there. It’s the spring cleaning of our thoughts that will yield a great future.
  • The missed goals of what we didn’t do. Holding onto them will only weigh us down.
  • The negative people who don’t believe in us and don’t join our vision.
  • The regrets of yesterday that we continue to allow to rule over today.

 

“Each of us is imbued with the power to choose to the season of our mind.” -Skip Prichard

Leadership Tip: Leave behind the negative people who don’t join your vision.

 

Ahead of us, let’s grab onto:

  • The dream that we shoved into the drawer, but hold onto.
  • The new idea that may prove to be the catalyst of our future.
  • The untried, the experiment, the positive.
  • The new friends who inspire us and push us out of our comfort zone.
  • The wisdom of the past that whispers its undeniable truth.
  • The happiness that trembles just beneath the surface, wanting to inspire.

“Leadership is a choice, not a position.” -Stephen Covey

Leadership Tip: Embrace friends who inspire and push you out of your comfort zone.

 

Our Choice

Assume the Positive

Start With The Positive

 

“Leaders start with the positive, always believing the best first.” -Skip Prichard

 

You’re flipping channels on the television when all of a sudden you land on a game show. You hear the crowd shouting answers.  The person playing the game is trying to answer the host of the show, hoping to win big.  In the background you can see a gleaming new car.

You don’t intend to watch, but you want to see what happens. The contestant squints, grimaces, and tentatively answers.

Almost instantaneously you hear a loud buzzer going off.  The obnoxious sound signals the end of the dream.

Game Over.

Some people seem to wait in the wings as if watching a game show.  Whatever you do, whatever you say, they are sitting in judgment.  They wait for the opportunity to hit the buzzer, to declare you wrong, to declare “game over.”

Do you know someone like that?

You never hear a word of encouragement.  You never hear a positive word.  It’s not that it is hard to elicit a positive response; it’s impossible.

But they are quick to point out a misspelling.  They are fast hitting reply and telling you how disappointed they are in something.

I once knew someone who was apt at pointing out what was wrong.  He was in my office, complaining about someone.  My advice to him was, “Assume the positive. Give the person the benefit of the doubt.  Ask some questions.  Don’t be so quick to condemn and complain.”

 

“Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply.” –Stephen Covey

Assume positive intent.

What if it wasn’t an attack, but was a mistake?

What if it wasn’t a mistake, but a miscommunication?

What if it wasn’t a miscommunication, but an oversight?

What if it wasn’t an oversight, but was caused by an undisclosed personal issue?

 

There are so many times when we need to step back.  Instead of complaining, blaming and assuming the worst, pause and reflect.

Someone recently sent me a surprising note accusing me of ignoring his email.  What he didn’t know: I was on an international flight and did not have access to email for fifteen hours.