Speaking Positively

I tried to write a piece for this weblog about my recent experiences with speaking positively, and how they have profoundly affected my own mindset and outlook on the world, but I did not succeed. My original thought was to introduce a hypothetical situation in which you were supposed to think about how you would deliver bad news in the best way possible, to give the listener the best chance at reacting positively, but I couldn’t think of a good one. All of my examples ultimately stemmed from my job, and would have little application outside of it.

In the hypothetical, I was going to explain that you could certainly give someone the “cold, hard facts,” but that would be dispiriting and likely provoke a negative reaction. “It’s true,” I would have acknowledged, “that the news itself is unfortunate, but to provoke a feeling of discontent is not the best outcome. You have a unique opportunity here to inspire someone to make the most out of their circumstances, and acquiesce not to defeat in the face of unchangeable fortune, but to rise within that reality and focus on the good things that remain.” I then was going to suggest that, by speaking about negative things in a positive manner, we can show people how to manage their circumstances and successfully overcome the unfortunate events that befall them. We can introduce those subjectively “bad” ideas as objectively neutral ones, then encourage a subjectively positive reaction.

“This is not easy,” I would have explained, “at first, but over time, with practice, it changes the way your mind looks at the outside world. By constantly challenging yourself to present the raw data in a way that provokes the most positive response, you will learn to quickly and efficiently process new events through the filter of how it can be interpreted positively.” It happened to me. The other day, I had to drive to the Department of Motor Vehicles three times. I had only once before had to register a vehicle, and that was in January. In January, the woman from whom I bought my car provided me with the necessary documentation for registration in a stack of papers connected with a paper clip. I brought those same documents with me to the DMV in Westchester County, but I didn’t know that my out-of-state driver’s license needed to be accompanied by further proof of my identity. When I went back with my passport and social security card in tow, I found out that they needed a copy of my car title. My final trip was to learn that what I thought was my title was just a receipt for my last registration, in Alabama, and I would need my lienholder to mail a photocopy of the title with a letter of intent to my residence.

I had a great time driving up and down the road. I was listening to music the whole time, the window person at the DMV was helpful each time I approached her, and I wasn’t even all that bummed about having to come back in the future because I knew that next time I would have everything I needed and would drive away with a Prius registered in the state of New York. My mind had gotten so used to putting a positive spin on things that the process of converting what should have been a frustrating wild-goose-chase into a pretty fun day off was subconscious and nearly instantaneous.
Something changes about the way we think when we change the way we express ourselves. There are many studies about the effect of language on thought processes, and I have experienced it firsthand.
My only lament is that I could not successfully write about it.

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