At Harvard Business Council, we prefer to face reality for what it is rather than sugarcoat it. Do you feel the same? Whether you do or not, here are our reasons to keep communication as straightforward as possible.
1. How often have you found yourself facing a plight, and in the moment of worst despair, someone would come up with, "everything happens for a reason"? We don't know about you, but we've never found it particularly helpful.
Here are some alternatives to the overly optimistic phrases that we hear repeated daily:
Just try to be happy → This must be feeling awful. What could help to change your mood?
Everything happens for a reason → Sometimes, we can draw the short straw in life. How can I support you during this challenging time?
You will get over it → You had a tough day, so you should take it easy today and strive for better times. Do not forget that you have faced other difficulties before.
Don't be negative → You are allowed to think that but don't stay in those thoughts.
As leaders, we should be solution-oriented and work every day to create the ideal environment for our company and employees to thrive.
It is crucial to validate the authentic human emotional experience because doing the opposite can result in denial - meaning failing to recognize the truth.
2. As humans, we need to express our emotions, whether positive or negative.
When someone feels the pressure of always looking on the bright side and isn't free to express their anger or sadness, they become frustrated.
A recent study shows that those who can accept their mental experiences tend to benefit from better psychological health in the long term. One reason seems to be that acceptance helps them experience less negative emotion in response to stressors.
Additionally, another study reminds us that striving to maintain a positive attitude develops maladaptive responses to negative stimuli and experiences.
Undoubtedly, this negatively impacts creativity and productivity in the workplace.
3. As can be seen from the examples suggested in the first point, the opposite of toxic optimism is not pessimism but healthy positivity.
Especially in these times of uncertainty and frustration that affects many, it is necessary to keep in mind to maintain realistic communication with the team while instilling a positive charge.
Research shows that positive psychology interventions in the workplace produce desirable outcomes among employees. In fact, before the interventions, only 23% of individuals declared themselves "very expressive of optimism at work." Results duplicated after the first few sessions, spiking at 40%. Those who reported high stress at work fell by 30%, and about 85% of employees felt "connected to work."
Leaders must do everything possible to balance a stoic approach with a positive attitude. They must be an active part of the working reality to do this. Therefore, despite the countless commitments, it is essential to get involved with initiatives and events that include the whole team to better convey your values and set an example.
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