I believe that if I practice forgiveness that others around me will be more inclined to practice forgiveness too. I believe if I practice being compassionate that those around me will be influenced to practice compassion as well. I believe that if I am loving and kind and grateful that those around me will pick up on being more loving and kind and grateful themselves. I believe in the possibility of impacting and creating ripples with people whose path I cross.
Research and science provide evidence that when it comes to happiness and positivity that we can positively impact change in others. Shawn Achor, a happiness researcher, author, and speaker known for his advocacy of positive psychology, suggests several ways to inspire positive change in others. His tips allow for subtle shifts, gentle ripples of change. Here are his suggestions for creating shifts in others toward positivity and happiness.
Praise Habit - Praise one person new each day about a strength they posses and how they are using it. This quick habit is a powerful way to inspire happiness and a deep sense of confidence, one person at a time.
The Power Lead - When you initiate a conversation, or a meeting, or any interaction start it off with something positive and optimistic. It establishes the trajectory for the rest of the conversation. Due to the mirror neuron effect the other person will typically respond in kind. We are modeling that positive behavior. It helps to set the tone for how that person sees the world. Something as simple as…”Hey it’s a great day, how are you doing?”
There are multiple realities all the time. It’s important to choose the valuable reality and share that as your power lead, instead of sharing the negative reality. When we prioritize making a difference in the world, then we find meaning and that builds our happiness.
The Positive Lead - Ask questions that don’t lead people to a specific answer, you are just leading them to positive territory. Instead of “how was your day?” ask “what was the best part of your day?” They can then scan their day and look for the positive. I especially love this one with my kids.
The 10/5 Way - This is a simple habit that entails acknowledging the other person. Here's how it works, when you are about to pass someone on the sidewalk or in a hallway, when you are 10 feet away initiate eye contact and then at 5 feet away say “hello”. It's a simple gesture that builds social connection. Studies have shown company morale to substantially increase with the implementation of just this one small gesture.
Joy versus Junk - People bond more over joy than they do junk. If you know what motivates and brings someone joy than you bond with them more. Find ways to have conversations about joy more than about junk. Shift the water cooler talk to something positive. Strong social connections create happier lives.
Social Happy Hour - Invite a group of 2-3 friends/co-workers to have a conversation about what causes them the most happiness in their lives right now and what motivates them to wake up in the morning.
Some of the most meaningful and powerful moments of change in our life occur in the midst of deep connection. But in our fast paced world, it is easy for conversations to sometimes revolve around the “what” instead of the “why,” or focus on the fires we need to put out instead of the joy in the present moment.
For the Social Happy Hour, your goal is to create connection around happiness. Have a conversation about what causes the most happiness in their lives right now, what they are grateful for, and what challenging negativity they might face.
Research shows we feel much more connected to people when we know the motivation, rather than the gossip, on the people around us.
Wave and/or Smile Campaign - A simple one second behavioral change can transform a whole community. Wave and/or smile as you pass by your neighbors and co-workers.
Creating Victories - The key to getting other people to change their behavior is to give their brain a victory. We’ve got to get that first win before we can move people in a positive direction. Sometimes we get wins at work or at home and we don’t even know it because no one is telling us, no one is praising us. The only thing we may hear is the negative letting us know the things we aren’t doing or the things we are doing wrong or need to do better.
Shawn Achor says that if you wait for the outcome to celebrate, you’ve waited too long. Don’t praise and celebrate the outcomes, praise and celebrate the process and the behavior that led to those outcomes. The outcomes will change. An example would be of a child doing well on a spelling test. If you praise and celebrate the grade you are limiting their potential because they’ll be afraid to take a risk, they’ll be afraid of failure, they’ll play it safe in order to receive the praise.
Positive to Negative Interactions - Research indicates that a ratio of 5:1 of positive interactions to negative interactions is necessary in order to maintain a healthy relationship and for a team to work at its maximum potential. Five deposits into the bank of positivity for every one withdrawal of negativity or criticism.
I encourage you to go ahead and test drive some, or all of these suggestions for inspiring happiness, positivity and change in others. Create a ripple of goodness out into the world through your actions, your behaviors. I believe that my beliefs, thoughts, actions and behaviors do impact others. They do change others. They do change the world. Change YOUR mind, change the WORLD.