PLAYING TO YOUR STRENGTHS
Extensive research has shown that the brain has a negative bias. Because its first instinct is usually to guard and protect us, it is simply built with a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news. Have you noticed that you spend more time dwelling on bad news than you do when you receive good news? Criticisms often have a greater impact than compliments and bad news frequently draws more attention than good. This is what Psychologists refer as the negative bias (also called the negativity bias), and it can have a powerful effect on your behaviour, your decisions, and even your relationships.
‘Negativity Bias’ refers to our proclivity to “attend to, learn from, and use negative information far more than positive information” (Vaish et al., 2008, p.383). We can think of it as an ‘asymmetry’ in how we process negative and positive occurrences to understand our world, one in which “negative events elicit more rapid and more prominent responses than non-negative events” (Carretié et al., 2001, p.75).
So now you will understand why hearing negative comments about your body and weight elicit more emotion in you than when you get compliments. This also explains why people have often respond more emotionally and physically than logically. If we take a critical look at how much time we take to mourn the dead or recover from unpleasant traumatic experiences, we will realise that our recovery from such events take a longer time than the feeling of positivity when a friend gets married, we birth a child or make the graduation list. In a nutshell, we focus our attention and energy on more negative situations that positive ones.
Now, although research has shown that we have a natural tendency to behave in a certain manner because of how our brain is wired to work, constantly allowing negativity bias to rule us may sabotage our success at work, in our business, in our love relationships and friendships. A few years ago, I had an almost unbearable schedule. I was constantly busy and barely had time to do anything else. Knowing how much I value time with my family, especially my daughter, I always had reminders to make sure that I spend time with her as I should. Unfortunately, there was this one time when I was away on a trip. It had always been an inside tradition of ours to wish each other a happy birthday at exactly midnight. But I was away on a trip, totally worn out hours before her birthday and had decided to take a quick nap. She had stayed up waiting for my call but I was knocked out. This happened about 5 years ago and till date, she still reminds me of this incident even though I have been faithful in keeping up this tradition ever since.
This little story is just one example of ‘negativity bias’ and how our brain is wired to dwell on the times life has not gone to plan, not on the countless times it did. That is, our tendency to focus more on the negatives than the positives – in ourselves, in others (particularly our parents!), in our circumstances; in the past, in the present and when forecasting the future.
The stats on how important this syndrome has been very eye-opening. Social scientists have found that it takes five compliments to make up for one criticism (though I reckon it is closer to 25!) It is also why those who can overcome their negativity bias are not only happier people, but also more successful.
A study by Psychologist Susan Segerstrom found that ten years after graduation, law students who were optimistic earned an average of $32,667 more than their pessimistic peers (Warrell Maggie, 2017).
According to a recent survey from Gallup, workers who use their strengths every day are: 8% more productive than their peers who are forced to do things they don’t want to do; 15% less likely to quit their jobs; Six times more engaged with their work; Three times as likely to report an enjoyable quality of life.
The place of work, business and relationships can be a tough one to navigate. And the way to get ahead is to play to your strengths. Indeed, that can be very tiresome when one is constantly having to deal with one negative situation or another. Many articles have argued that success brings happiness. And this perspective is not totally false. But in the context of this article, let’s look at how Shawn Achor’s perspective applies, which is that happiness brings success. Every business outcome shows improvement when the brain is positive. How can we play to our strengths even in the face of our most troubling adversities?
In order to focus on what is good, strong and positive about your output at work or even in your relationships, you should be able to identify what these high points are. Yes, getting feedback may not be anyone’s favourite routine when it comes to work and human relationships but it is crucial to our success. So, we must be comfortable with asking for feedback, both inside our place of work and outside of it. By gathering input from a variety of sources—family members, past and present colleagues, friends, teachers, and so on—you can develop a much broader and richer understanding of yourself than you can from a standard performance evaluation. There is also the aspect of self-awareness and how getting feedback allows you to pay attention or bring your mind to you behaviours and habits. By staying in tune with yourself, you start to recognise the thoughts you focus on throughout the day and then you can begin to shape your thinking patterns. As a corporate executive, a human resource manager, an employee looking to peak in performance at work, this is important to you.
There is a tool called the Reflected Best Self (RBS) exercise that can help you source proper feedback and understand your strengths. It offers a unique feedback experience that counterbalances negative input. Research outlines the steps you can follow to help you to tap into talents you may or may not be aware of and so increase your career potential.
· To begin the RBS exercise, you first need to solicit comments from family, friends, colleagues, and teachers, asking them to give specific examples of times in which those strengths were particularly beneficial.
· Next, you need to search for common themes in the feedback, organizing them in a table to develop a clear picture of your strong suits.
· Third, you must write a self-portrait–a description of yourself that summarizes and distils the accumulated information.
· And finally, you need to redesign your personal job description to build on what you are good at. The RBS exercise will help you discover who you are at the top of your game. Once you are aware of your best self, you can shape the positions you choose to play–both now and in the next phase of your career.
When you become self-aware of who you are, what you are good at, what you are not great at, etc., you can now make progress.
In today’s era of social media, we are privileged to have a closer look into people’s lives. We see people we look up to doing a lot and sometimes it feels as if they can do everything can anything. That is not the case or a true reflection of reality. What they show you is what they are good or extraordinary at doing. Most people are masters at just one thing and guess what they have spend most of their lives improving on their strengths. The most successful people we know, were known for being great at something that possibly changed our perfection of life and living. Some of the most creative and successful people have even changed how we live and what we use on daily basis. Who said they did not have weaknesses? They had personal setbacks just like anybody, but they chose to focus that one thing that matters most.
For corporate executives and people in people development positions, there must also be the realisation that not all employees can be the same. The onus lies on us to study the people we work with to recognise what they are great at just as we do for ourselves.
For employees that have growth mind-sets and enjoy learning new things, that involves helping them developing additional skills continually. For employees with fixed mind-sets, that involves letting them focus their energies on what they do best. For example, the member of your marketing team who believes they were born to write and is not interested in doing anything but writing can stick to creating blog posts, e-books, emails, case studies, and white papers. The engineer who loves writing code but wants to learn how to sell can do both.
Studies show that small wins boost our sense of competence and enhance our creativity. As Charles Duhigg explains in The Power of Habit, “Research has shown that small wins have enormous power and influence disproportionate to the accomplishments of the victories themselves.”
So, take each day at as it comes, focus on being a better version of yourself and being better at your craft. You will get to that place of winning!
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017. She has also been featured on CNN.
She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and @dzigbordi across all social media platforms.