We all categorize things — it’s how we sort our world and make sense of it. Good things over here — bad things over there. Similar things in this box — other things in another box. Even Sesame Street encourages us to sort our world.
We also categorize people. Yes, we do. All of us. Sometimes we assign them a description without knowing enough. And, if you think you don’t do that — you’re wrong.
We read a news article about a person and consciously assign intent or bias
We see someone speeding down the road and label them as dangerous and thoughtless
We dislike someone’s decision so, therefore, that person ‘just doesn’t get it’
We all do it. But, why?
It’s easier to assign intent to others which then justifies our own bias — the other person is either in-line with our own thinking and an ally, or their intent is misguided and they are an adversary.
By assigning intent without inquiring about it, we limit the amount of time we need to put into understanding someone.
Pick a topic, especially one that has a pretty clear line of delineation — global warming, poverty, systemic racism are three that come to mind. All three have some pretty polarizing viewpoints. It’s easier to align oneself with those who are similar to yourself and also assign blame or ignorance to those who are not.
Don’t believe me?
Let’s take a look at social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I wrote a Nov 2020 blog post about how social media platforms have algorithms that use Artificial Intelligence to find persons who are aligned with your way of thinking. Your clicks, swipes and pauses all help shape the opinions you see on these platforms. Social media builds your belief that many others think just like you — it’s a main reason why the platforms are so popular.
No one else hears it, yet it can be quite loud — as well as effective. ‘Self-talk’.
And, it’s critical for effective Leadership.
When we talk about Leadership qualities, most of the conversation tends to be about what an effective leader DOES. Leadership is certainly about doing good stuff but, at the heart of it is having the right inner voice. Leaders who have it propel themselves through a solution-seeking lens of optimism and hope and are the ones who lead us through difficult times.
Self-talk is the stream of consciousness that runs through our head every day. It can be positive or negative — and typically falls in line with whether you are a positive or negative person. Successful people use positive self-talk to overcome the stray negativity that enters their mindset from time to time.
I’d rather be optimistic and wrong than pessimistic and right.
Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.
Besides the obvious benefit of using positive self-talk as a spring board to create solutions, there is some research that also points to some interesting physical and psychological benefits:
These are big WINS that are worth paying attention to!
I tend to stay relatively calm even when the seas are choppy. I try to look for the learning in a situation rather than creating a complaint when things don’t go well. I look for reasons when I see someone’s behaviour that is rude or negative. I try not to jump to conclusions by assigning intent when I really don’t know.
But, by no means am I perfect. I’m quite imperfect actually.
I have my moments of frustration and if you hang out around me often enough you will see me get a tad ‘grumpy’ every now and then. I get like this when when I’m especially tired or overwhelmed — or when everything around me seems to be an overly dramatic soap-opera.
Being positive is often a choice. So, I work to choose positivity whenever I can. I think better. I respond better. I know I make better decisions.
But, can one’s positive mindset actually make a difference in other areas?
Research seems to think so. We’ve all heard of the placebo effect and how someone with a positive mindset about a drug or therapy can help overcome a physical ailment of some kind. And while it might seem obvious, I went looking for some evidence to see if there is any link between a positive attitude and a better educational experience.