Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Coping

The Politics of Optimism Vs. Cynicism

Very interesting Caucus results in Iowa…

It would appear that the more positive, future-oriented, optimistic messages stirred the hearts of the people. The Kerry and Edwards campaigns got huge shots in the arm as they moved into first and second place.

Attack tactics and victim-like, everybody-is-after-me messages apparently caused Dean to lose ground. I was fascinated…and disturbed…by his speech after the results were in. Judging by his very “un-presidential” facial expressions and tone of voice, I didn’t know if I was watching a political speech or a dramatic preview of a WWF wrestling match!

Now, as we say here in the Deep South, I don’t have a dog in this fight. This article is not in support of one candidate or another, but an observation of the results of different approaches and behaviors. Perhaps we can learn some lessons in our own lives from what we see.

Martin Seligman's Predictions

In his classic book, Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman addresses this very issue. Amazingly, his research demonstrated that a political candidate’s success could be predicted with over 90% accuracy by an analysis of his or her speeches. Historically, optimistic messages preview success.

Seligman further described research study after study that demonstrated the truth of this principle in everything from sales, business success, academic success, personal relationships, and personal happiness. Optimism pays off in life.

Do an Attitude Check

Monitor your own “speeches.”

  • Do you harp on what’s wrong or celebrate what’s right?
  • Do you whine about what others are doing to make your life difficult, or do you focus on what you have the power to change?
  • Do you operate from the standpoint of moving toward positive goals and visions for the future, or do you live in a fear-based, avoidance mode?
  • Does your speech frequently include the terms “always” and “never?”
  • What do your face, voice, and gestures say? Do you look angry and tense, even when trying to deliver a positive message?

No, most of us will never run for political office. But every day, we try to sell ourselves and our ideas, at work and at home. The principles are the principles. Use them!

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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