Published DateAre you kidding me with this weather? We're currently ear-deep in an eight-day stretch of blue skies, warm days and cool nights. I'm not sure New England weather gets any better than this. The bugs are almost gone, kids are heading back to school and the calm of early autumn is slowly taking over. Of course, there's always that one guy. The one who associates the perfect weather with more traffic. The one who associates the kids going back to school with the frustration of getting stuck behind a bus. The same guy who prefers green leaves over vibrant orange. (OK, that was a stretch! Who doesn't like fall colors!?)
I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy. I even have a picture of a half-full glass on my T-shirt. I am optimistic about my business, about the real estate market and even about our economy. I can assure you, in a world of cynics, it is not always easy to maintain a positive outlook. At a former company I was plagued with a co-worker who simply oozed negativity. He would be happy during the precise moment that he made a sale, but that would immediately turn to a worry session about where his next lead was coming from. Not only could he not be content with his job or even enjoy it, he would barely even allow himself the pleasure of his reward.
There is a reason I did not spend much time around that guy. Not only was it depressing to have to listen to his unrealistic tales of woe, it was also a contagious sentiment that always seemed to affect anyone within ear-shot. There is now some research showing this type of behavior is not only contagious, but it makes you dumb. The study shows that exposure to 30 minutes or more of negativity (including TV) actually damages the part of your brain used for problem-solving. So how do you keep your sanity? How do you keep that glass half-full? Here are some ways you can stave off that cynical infection and maintain your outlook.
One of my favorite techniques for someone's incessant complaining is to flip it right around and encourage them to solve the problem. When that negative Nancy starts in on you about whatever issue is currently vexing them, simply ask "How are you going to fix it?" More often than not they will simply walk away in a huff. Since you have not offered a listening or commiserating ear, they will move on to find a better audience. Who knows, maybe they will even try and fix the problem.
I have to spend a considerable time in meetings. Over the past year or so I have been able to utilize this technique to help get the meeting "unstuck" from a talking point that we simply can't fix then and there. If the group is gathering negative momentum regarding a problem that can't be solved in the meeting, take charge and re-focus the meeting on those that you can, in fact, solve. Spending time and energy complaining about broader issues in politics or the lack of funding for a specific program is not going to solve the problem. Focus the meeting, and your energy, on practical and realistic goals.
Another option to save yourself from the negative Norman is to simply get some distance. Ask to be moved to a different office or a different floor. Even just simply closing the door to your office can help filter out some of their rants. Of course, that is not always possible and is also not always "polite," but we're talking about self-preservation here.
An agent in my old office was stuck on the first floor and his office was right next to our resident curmudgeon. An optimist at heart, and with no other feasible options, he simply started closing his door. It was considered impolite and there were rumblings in the office about the motives behind the door closing, but his only goal was to maintain his sanity and his positive outlook. Of course it is not always as simple as that, but he did have his best year ever in 2011. You tell me if you think optimism has some power!
My dad has the innate ability to play a consistent round of golf regardless of his partners. He plays nearly every day, and 90 percent of the time he is playing with strangers. I am blessed with the innate ability to worry so much about the people watching me swing that my game goes straight down the toilet. I often think about professional pitchers and golfers who are performing every throw and every swing under the watchful eyes of millions of viewers. They have trained themselves to block out that audience and simply perform. (Just so we're clear, that is the only reason I'm not a professional golfer.. Yeah, let's go with that!)
You can do the same thing when it comes to protecting yourself from the negative Natalies in your own life. Sometimes you simply can't "get away," and rather than fixing the problem they re-focus their efforts toward getting you on their side. If that is the case, just escape in your own mind. Mentally remove yourself from the situation and head to a tranquil island or peaceful mountain top. I've read about a major league pitcher who imagines a large glass jar coming out of the sky and landing on top of him on the mound (open-side down of course!). It helps drown out the din of the crowd and lets him get to work. You can still maintain the conversation and nod and smile when necessary, but you don't have to let that poison into your mind.
There is no shortage of people willing to tell you what's wrong with the economy and why this is a tough market to sell a home. But, the optimist (and realist) inside me tells a different story. My house sold in just two weeks to the first person to walk through the front door and at just under my asking price. I don't believe that was a fluke, and the current market reports back up my feelings. Anyone can put a negative spin on nearly everything they hear. I simply encourage you to focus on the positive and maintain your sense of optimism. Who knows, maybe you'll even get smarter!