“So, tell me how your meeting went,” I said.
Nathan was a bit cheery. “It was really different. We have never had a meeting like that.”
“What was different?”
“I only made that one simple change at the beginning. I started with that exercise at the beginning. Good News. I asked everyone in the group to share one piece of Good News from the previous week.” Nathan was finally smiling.
“And?” I asked.
“At first, some were having difficulty. You know, thinking of something positive. If I had asked for Negative News, that would have been easy. But Good News was a struggle.”
“So, what did you learn?”
Nathan was finally seeing some progress. “Thinking about something positive requires work, but it moves people in the right direction. Once they began to work, the rest of the meeting stayed with the same momentum. It’s funny, the only thing I did differently was the way I started the meeting.”
Around the water cooler, have you noticed the tone of conversation?
- “Did you hear about so and so, can you believe what happened?”
- “You should have seen this guy who cut me off in traffic this morning.”
- “Can you believe the gall of that person, why are they so opinionated?”
And, most of this is unconscious. It comes streaming out with little thought, guidance or direction. So easy to find fault, condemn or complain.
Ask a person about something good that happened yesterday, and they will stop, suddenly out of flow. Something positive requires conscious thought, does not come streaming out. We can usually find that positive moment from yesterday, but we have to interrupt our unconscious negative stream to do so.
The negative stream and positive thoughts sit in two different parts of the brain. Negative thoughts, from the primal brain arrive from a mental state of survival. Reflexive in speed, we don’t have to think. Positive thoughts require that we trigger the neo-cortex, fully visible on a fMRI brain scan. Responsive in speed, we have to think. Which part of the brain are you thinking with? Which mental state are you using to solve problems and make decisions?