Some years ago I did the StrengthsFinder test and found out that one of my strengths is Positivity. I always knew that I had this strength, it comes with an ebullient personality: finding the positive in situations and with people, appreciating the good and focusing on strengths while overlooking any weaknesses, seeking to like people and support them no matter what happens; being optimistic: looking for the ‘silver lining’ and seeing the ‘glass half-full’ not ‘half-empty’.
Time and time again, some feedback would pop up for me around: realism (normally in performance reviews at work or through a Personality Test Report). It went something like this: ‘Anne Marie tends to be too optimistic: she can be naïve around situations and people, this means that she can be open to being influenced by others (and read here: ‘not in a good way’) by taking people and situations at face value, seeing the good and not looking for the areas for improvement or jumping too quickly to positive conclusions without going deeper to find more subtle and more critical facts. Her eagerness to empathise, be supportive and positive, can lead to her misreading the situation and therefore to decisions that are not the best ones for herself, the issue or situation and for the other people involved’.
Importantly for me, in addition to all of that around accurate decision making and problem solving, I am leaving myself open to feeling hurt and left-down when people do not live up to my expectations or my view of them. Through a study of Personality Testing I learned that overally positive and optimistic people can become quite cynical as they grow older, due to this very fact. We all know that when a strength is over-used, it quickly becomes a weakness. To increase my effectiveness and to avoid the slippage into ultimate cynicism, I started to practise the NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) technique of examining situations and people’s views from 3 perspectives: the first, my own; the second, the other person’s and a third neutral view point.
This technique is very helpful especially when caught up in the first perspective, of seeing the world from my own view point. ‘Getting into the shoes’ of the other person, and really seeing the world from their view point is always illuminating. For this to happen I had to leave all the emotion around my own perspective go completely, to allow me to see, hear and feel the world from the other person’s perspective. This helped me interpret the situation and their approach, more accurately. It increased my understanding that there is another way to view the world, or this situation, and it is not necessarily bad, or negative or pessimistic, it is just different to my own perspective. Then, just as powerful, and quite difficult for me, is the third perspective of standing outside my own viewpoint and the other person’s position, to examine it objectively. This neutral stance, allowed me to view what’s going on from an unemotional state, to truly examine and explore it from all angles. When I came back to my first position, the personal stance, I could see very clearly that I had jumped to the wrong conclusions because my need to find the good and the positive led me there. They were the lenses through which I viewed the situation and when I dropped these, I came to a deeper and more accurate and enriching understanding.
When used in the right way at the right time, my Positivity and Optimism, are very valuable to me, especially because they are backed by a deep belief in the power of people to be the best they can be and that they have all the resources to get them there. My positive and optimistic strengths always help me recover from difficult situations and events, the old ‘bounce backability’, which I am very sure can be irritating to others who find it more difficult to recover. And they say, not sure if this is true, but Optimistic and Positive people not only are happier but also live longer: do I want to live too long, not sure about that but that’s just the way it is, one of the ‘benefits’ of the glass being half-full all the time!
Anne Marie Crowley, based in Cork, is a free-lance Coach and Trainer in the field of behavioural change for individuals and business.
Anne Marie Crowley is the founder of Crowley Personal and Business Change.
1 thought on “Positivity and Optimism: Are they overrated? Try a different perspective”
Hi Anne Marie,
Another great article, I really enjoyed reading it. Keep the articles coming. Reading this article was akin to listening to you speak in person.