Being positive has its own merits, but not by turning a blind eye to the struggles of others. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect all of us around the world in every aspect of our lives imaginable, Paul Blanchard maintains that we should avoid being a positivity warrior. In this episode, he reminds us of the ways weaponizing positivity could hurt you and those around the world. He then shares some alternatives that we can use instead to continue supporting the people around us without discounting their struggles and making them feel less.
We’re going to be talking about some important things relevant to the socioeconomic climate right now with what’s going on with this pandemic, as a lot of areas are getting over the peak. They are starting to open up a little bit. Those that aren’t, hopefully they are getting closer to being able to do so. There are some interesting things that are going to start happening that we’ve already seen happening underneath the surface. We’re already there before any of this started. We have an opportunity to curb it a little bit if we can get ahead of it to make sure that a lot of the things we’ve been experiencing our lives through this pandemic have been magnified.
Weaponizing Positivity Is Hurting You And Those In Your World
I was talking with a bunch of my Habit Finder coaches in our mastermind that we do every week. We were talking about the fact that people that went into this pandemic and this quarantine with challenges in their marriage, financial struggles, great relationship equity, great reserves were magnified on how to focus on service and whatever else. It’s been interesting across the board to find that the market retracted a little bit. In some industries, it retracted a lot. Overall, marginally, it retracted a little bit but people seem to retract even more.
What that has resulted in is people are able to step back and think about their own thoughts, be able to shift their mindset and thinking patterns the way we talk about in these Power Sessions. We are seeing incredible things happen and being able to do that is tremendous. We want to be careful that every great thing, every strength, every gift that we have has a shadow side. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing in a lot of cases. There are a couple of measurements in the Habit Finder that you can’t have too much of. For example, there is no such thing as too much empathy. Usually, it’s a distorted version of empathy that people believe is too much empathy. You can’t have too much compassion and passion.
We want to understand though that our greatest gifts do have shadow sides. As we’re coming out of this challenge, as we’re getting into what’s going on, we want to be careful of not becoming a positivity warrior because they can leave as much collateral damage as any other kind of warrior that is looking to use destructive force to prove a point. Even when we do that positively, we don’t always think about we can get into trouble. Let’s dive right into this. Let’s get started in our Power Session.
We are here on the Habit Finder Facebook Page to be able to pour into you in ways that can change how you think. That’s what this is all about. A lot of people spend a lot of time on their behavior and that’s important. I can see why we’re drawn to that because if you don’t take the actions, if you don’t do the dues, you’re not going to get any results no matter how positively you think or how productively you plan. However, your behaviors are sustained and aligned to how you think. If you change how you think and what you do becomes a natural outcome, then we find greater levels of success, fulfillment, vision and drive.
That’s what we want to do here is to give you something you can grab onto to make a bigger impact on your health, your wealth or your relationships. We’re talking about positivity. Any of you that have been following and reading us for a while know that I’m not the biggest fan of positivity, but not for the reasons you may think. I like positive and productive energy. That’s a very important clarification. I see a lot of people that are hanging their hat on the nobility of positivity but not necessarily matching that with productivity. That’s like putting new coats of paint on a rotting fence post and then when the winds of life show up, as they always do, even though it looks pretty and nice, it falls.
We want to be aware of how to be productively positive, not just positive, and how we don’t want to use optimism as Lidocaine to numb our lives. We’re coming on the backend of this pandemic for a lot of us. There are still people, and our hearts and prayers go out to them, that are still in the thick of this in their personal lives. A lot of people on the frontlines and in the epicenters are still experiencing difficult things. I’m not here to minimize that at all, but in aggregate, we’ve got a country that seems to be getting over the hump. We’re getting past the peak. Some interesting things are going to start to happen.
One of the things that we want to be aware of is being careful to not be a positivity warrior. Using positivity to beat somebody over the head can be as destructive as using negativity to beat somebody over the head. What we always want to remember is the things that have always worked still work. In this magnified state that we’re in, the things that work don’t work even better. They give us louder feedback so they feel like they’re working even better. Stepping into someone’s world, honoring them, bringing their walls down, intrinsically validating them as we teach in our coaching programs, whether you’re a Fortune 500 company, building a home-based business or anything in between, we always start with people. That always works as well.
In this triggered and magnified state we’re in, we’re getting louder feedback. It feels like it’s working even better, which is great as long as we’re doing the right things. It’s going to compel us. It’s going to draw us into doing it even more and even better, which is great. If we’re doing the wrong things, we’re going to get that feedback and it’s going to drive us even deeper into challenges, overwhelm, frustration, depression and all this stuff. As we’re pulling out, there are a couple of things that I would like to share with you, to the people who aren’t going to be as naturally able to recognize the destructive use and that’s because they’re using positivity to do it. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the same thing. There’s the need to be right. It is how we end up using positivity in a negative way because we are no longer safe.
Surrendering Our Need to Be Right
As soon as we need to be right, we have forfeited the opportunity to be safe. That’s what I want to talk about. As soon as we surrender and give to our biological need to be right, it’s not just a need to be right that we’re aware of, we’re thinking about consciously of, “I need to be right about this.” It’s much more subversive and covert than that. It loves to hide under positivity. It loves to hide under good intentions because then it can thrive and have you use it at an even greater level without realizing the destruction that it’s having because you’ve got good intentions. You’re being positive. This is a sensitive topic. This can be a little fragile to work through. I’m not saying don’t be a positive person, but when your positivity makes someone else feel wrong and unsafe, it immediately becomes negative no matter how positive you are.
We’re going to want to become more aware and conscious of our need to be right, especially when it’s about good things and the fact that you are right. Those are the scenarios that make it even harder to recognize your need to be right. The biggest challenge that we underestimate and oftentimes don’t even recognize that when we need to be right, especially when we don’t realize it, we are making others around us feel wrong. When people feel wrong, they don’t feel safe, their walls go up, their reserves get pulled back, their cooperation productive energy goes way down. Even their face doesn’t show it initially like nodding heads, smiling faces. If they’re feeling wrong on the inside like if it’s your kids, spouse, team, people you work with, you could rally the troops with energy.
If your positivity is crushing their ability to feel safe about where they are, what they’re experiencing, it’s going to pay the wrong dividends over time. You might feel like you still can get there with somebody, create the solution, get them to take action but you’re going to find yourself having to revisit and recreate that over and over again. It will be exhausting because you’ve fallen into the realm of compliance. Depending on your social equity and status, you can draw that out longer than others. If I’m your boss and I control the fate of your paycheck, I’ve got a huge margin for error and compliance. If I’m your spouse and you’re worried about me leaving you and you are having no financial viability or whatever it might be, I’ve got a ton of leverage over your compliance.
Don’t Provoke Collateral Damage
Positivity warriors can leave just as much collateral damage as any other kind of warrior that is looking to use destructive force to prove a point.
We could give tons of examples to this. Those are the areas that we are at risk, even when we’ve got good intentions to be sensitive to our need to be right. There are a lot of people out there trying to be positivity warriors. I appreciate what they’re doing. Let me clarify. I’m fine with you broadcasting positivity on social media. I’m fine with you giving hopeful things for people to read, digest and take in. That is great. What I’m talking about is in your private relationships, your one-on-one conversations, and your intimate settings with small groups especially. If you bring your positivity to alienate their reality, it will not have the desired effect. It will have the opposite effect.
Make People Feel Heard And Safe
We will find all sorts of rationalizations, justifications like, “They are negative people. They are all about drama.” Did you know that most of the people in your life, not all, there are rattlesnakes, but most of the people in your life that you consider negative or drama, the one thing that would shift that is allowing them to feel heard? Most people that come across as victims, drama and negative don’t feel heard. They don’t feel understood. Even when they don’t want to, they continue to emit this victim energy. They continue to broadcast this negative dialogue in hopes that someone will grab onto that frequency, listen in and allow them to feel heard so that they can move forward. It’s not you coming in and bashing them over the head with your positivity that’s going to get them out of a negative state.
In fact, many of us who have written people off as drama and negative is because we showed up like, “How are you?” We tried to hit them over the head with optimism, positivity, quotable quotes and all these things to try and force change their perspective as a positivity warrior. We left them feeling alienated, not safe and frustrated. They go back to delving into this frequency of victimhood, negativity and drama, even though they don’t even want to do that. They feel helpless and trying to find someone to allow them to feel understood. Great leaders, great people.
We’re All About the People
We’re not all about the money, cause and passion. We are all about the people. The most important thing you can create in your relationship with people is for them to feel safe. If you want to create a massively successful business, you’ll want your people to feel safe. If you want to create a thriving family that relies on itself through thick and thin, you want your family members to feel safe. If you want to create a marriage that thrives and grows forever, you want to make them feel safe. Feeling safe is a critical pre-requisite. There needs to be performance, standards and accountability but it is all secondary to people feeling safe.
Without taking care of that first, we are working with diminished capacity. We are trying to push the car with the emergency brake on and that’s hard to do. Some of us have enough horsepower like those of us who have forgotten to take the emergency brake off. We have an engine that can still move the car even with it on, but at what cost? We burn out the emergency brake and then what happens when we need it? What happens when we need that emergency break? What happens when we need that social equity? What happens when we need that relationship equity? What happens when we need to visit a dark place of our own or be able to give someone else an anchor to pull out of theirs?
Positivity warriors too often use very offensive tactics to try and spew their positivity into somebody else’s life rather than giving them steps and ladders to climb out of their own. The greatest steps and ladders, the only way to point out how someone climbs out of their dark space as victim-y as it might feel is through questions. When we’re feeling overly positive, it can be difficult to pump the brakes, slow down and ask empathetic questions, rather than making big, positive declarations. Debbie asked, “As leaders, how do we help them victim be heard and safe without becoming the hero?” That’s what we naturally do when someone is in a victim state is we want to solve the problem. That’s what a positivity warrior does. We want to breathe light and life into them, which is a great idea in concept and in principle but it’s usually executed poorly. The way we become the heroes, we become their solution, rather than we facilitate a safe place where more often than not, they will find their solution. Debbie, the simple answer to your question is to ask questions. When someone seems to be in that state, we want to find out what’s going on.
Ourselves And Others
There’s going to be a narrative, story and plenty of opportunities to try not to eye-roll, but are we willing to hold space to get to what’s going on? You might need to do this a couple of times if you have been a hero to too many people because then you’ve had to cut them out of their life. It’s like you being the well that gives them water and then being mad that they keep coming back to you to drain you. Think about that. They drain you because they need water. You haven’t taught them how to go be their own well and dig into themselves deep enough to feel heard and safe because almost always, we need other people to do this. We learn more about ourselves from other people than we will ever learn about ourselves from ourselves.
Are we willing to do that? That creates a reciprocal exchange. We’re helping them to learn more about themselves by holding space and we’re learning more about ourselves by holding space. I get it. Those of you who go, “Paul, this takes too long. I can’t spend that time with all these people,” but you are more than willing to spend hours after the fact, after they join your team, after they hit certain levels, get promoted or whatever in damage control because you’re the hero, or guilt because you’ve dismissed them because we didn’t put the investments upfront. As we are turning out of this pandemic, please resist any opportunities to say, “I told you so,” and to be a positivity warrior.
I get it. You’re trying to be positive but one thing you’ll realize, and this will serve you regardless of the rest of this conversation, is that our ideas around good and bad, positive and negative, for the most part on a fundamental level, don’t exist. A lot of what we view is, “That person is so negative.” No. You are choosing to interpret it negatively. Is there any chance if there was an opportunity for them to feel heard that you might be able to use what you used to view as negative as a positive way to get them to the next level of their life to help facilitate that? Of course not because you’re dismissing that as negative. Let’s stop assessing things as good and bad, as negative and positive for face value.
Tell It Like It Is
Let’s evaluate it for what it should be. That is good and bad, positive and negative should be evaluated based on how you choose to interpret it and what you choose to do with it. This is for you internally and externally. If someone says something negative to you, it’s not negative. They just said something. How you choose to interpret and use it is what allows you to show up as a great leader and figure out how to make something positive and productive out of anything. Sometimes that will require dismissal. We want to be clear and accurate. I’m not saying you should be a glutton for punishment. Also internally, “I feel depressed.” Most people would assume that’s negative. What if you looked at depression? I’m not talking about clinical chemical imbalances that require medical and clinical intervention. I’ve got a ton of sensitivity and empathy for that.
What most people experience is a depressed state, they don’t want to acknowledge because that’s negative. It’s exhausting to pretend that you’re not there. When we finally surrender and say, “I’m depressed,” some people will feel like it’s a death sentence or relieved by it completely by how they chose to interpret it and how they chose to use it. What if we looked at nonclinical depression as a signal that wasn’t good or bad? It was just a signal. It is something to listen to and learn from. If we ignore the signal, then it’s going to be a bad thing. If we listen to it, we honor it. We work through where we are rather than hanging ourselves by the noose of where we wish we were. We’ll start being able to work through this and then we can go and do it with others.
Help Yourself by Helping Others
In fact, some of us who are stuck in that the most will want to start with others. The greatest way to get you unstuck is to go unstuck somebody else, but don’t do it as a positivity warrior. Do it as a listener or as someone who could show up and hold space. Someone asked, “How do I practice not asking open-ended leading questions so that I’m not in a corrective complex?” I call these quest speculations where we ask questions with an expected answer. In court, it’s called leading the witness. The first thing we want to do is we do want to ask open-ended questions but we want to keep them simple. The first thing is you want to go in understanding that you are not there to fix them.
I know this person, she’s an amazing human being and has very high levels of empathy. As do many people do what this person does in building a home-based business that has very high levels of empathy. The reason we get drawn into the corrective complex is because we create the illusion, the association that if they’re revealing their pain to me, I am now responsible to relieve it. That is not true. That’s what people call being too empathetic. It’s someone who unloads heavy stuff on them and they feel heavy and drowned in it, they start to get desperate to figure out how to help someone relieve that.
My friend, teammate, or neighbor opened up to me that their spouse cheated on them and all this stuff. I don’t know what to say to that, so we reach and we try to be the hero or we avoid ever having a conversation with that person again, all because we associated the revealing of their pain and challenges with the false belief that we’re responsible for relieving that. We’re not. What we’ll want to do is be responsible for holding space for being safe. Allowing them to feel heard without trying to fix or solve.
Commiserations And Listening
If you’ve got great advice, if you’re listening to your intuition, listen to it and share but please don’t share prematurely. This is what positivity warriors do. They walk around assuming that everybody wants to be smashed over the head with their positivity. The most positive thing you can do for anyone is to allow them to feel heard and feel understood. It’s amazing. We feel like, “I don’t want to commiserate, so we avoid anything that looks it.” There’s a fine line between commiseration and listening. Commiseration is when we both show up in our victimhood. Listening is when we show up and we put ours on the shelf and make it about them. It’s amazing, more often than not, how that empowers them to climb out of their victim hole. It’s amazing to be able to work through that.
Someone asked, “Those that live as a victim despite repeated attempts to help and ask those questions besides loving them, how can we avoid what negative from affecting us?” We do want to have boundaries but the challenge is when we’ve shown up as a hero in the past, it’s going to be painful to them go retroactively revisit those boundaries. That’s why it’s important at first to listen. When it comes time for a solution, I would ask them, put the onus on them to say, “Thanks for sharing. It’s always a safe place. Where would you like to go from here?” Sometimes that’s not a question to ask at the end of the conversation that they revealed. Sometimes it is just, “Thank you so much for listening.”
Let’s say they’re on your team and you say, “Thanks so much for sharing. This is always a safe place. Let’s set up a time to revisit and talk a little bit about where we go from here. Would that be okay?” Give them a chance to relieve some of the pressure that you opened a valve for because you asked great questions, you showed up safe. You opened the valve but it might take a little while for it to relieve some of that pressure. If you come back the next day, you’ll be in awe of how much clearer people’s minds could be if you give it a little time after you’ve created a safe place and then ask them. We want to be sensitive to the tone because there’s a big difference between, “Where do you want to go from here?” and, “Where would you like to go from here? What are you yearning for? What are you willing to do to get there? What are you not willing to do to get there?” That’s an interesting piece.
Will You Be The One to Listen?
We’ll do a Power Session on that another time. Everyone is willing to talk about what they’re willing to do but not willing to get clear about what they’re not willing to do, when both are important. Otherwise, you’re going to infringe on what you’re not willing to sacrifice. As soon as that starts to happen and you feel your character is compromised, you’ll bail. We want to be as clear about what we’re willing to sacrifice as well about what we’re not willing to sacrifice. Coming back to what you’re asking about is we don’t want to keep opening up opportunities to be their therapist necessarily. We don’t want to avoid feeling like their therapist at all because therapists happen to model being the greatest listeners on planet Earth.
If you go, “I feel like a therapist right now,” that’s great. If you go, “I feel like their therapist every other day, every week,” then that’s where we want to be able to start putting in better boundaries and revisiting clearly unemotionally, not out of anger or frustration. When they come back and say, “It’s not working.” You will have wanted to have a babystep plan, a clear idea of, “Did you do this?” I was working with a client who’s having a heck of a time. I would not trade myself for what she’s going through for anything, but I’m grateful I get to be there. There are some times that I feel like I need to show up. There are other times I feel like I need to be a little bit more productive with it but I’ll ask for permission to do that.
On a particularly difficult day, I was talking with her and I said, “I want you to make an inventory of all the things you’ve been taught that have helped you feel better. I want you to make an inventory of all the things that you’ve been taught from me, from other mentors, your therapist, anybody, breathing exercises, journaling exercises, little games that have helped you feel better. We’ve got that to look at so that when you’re feeling like you can’t get out of this hole, you can go systems check like in an airplane before you take off or in a space shuttle before it launches.” “Did I do this?” Not because you have to do all of them, but more often than not, we haven’t done any of them because our instinctive response when we’re negative is to isolate and to avoid.
That’s why you want to show up safe because if you show up trying to fix them, you’re giving more reason for them to isolate but keep sending victims smoke signals up, which we’re all going to get frustrated with overtime. I hope that’s helpful. We went to a couple of different areas. I want to make sure I address without completely getting off-topic. Someone asked, “I need an example of those great questions.” They’re going to start by what doesn’t seem like so great questions but it’s going to be the way you ask them that makes all the difference. There’s a bit of difference between calling someone up and going, “How are you?” than going, “How are you? What’s going on?”
Not that you need to imply that there’s something wrong but if they’re human, probably there is something wrong. As Westley in The Princess Bride said, “Life is pain.” We don’t want to give someone diseases they don’t have, but we don’t want to not treat the one that every human being has. That’s pain, challenge and disappointment. If you don’t think you have those things, then you’ve built up tremendous coping mechanisms that make you a little difficult to live with. You may get things done but it may not be fun for the people around you. We want to consider that in 360 degrees. Simple questions are, “How are you? What’s going on in your world?” If we’re talking to someone that’s on a team of ours or that we’re working with, “I realized I don’t know you as well as I thought. What’s shaped you in your life?”
If you already know them, “I want to check-in. What do you want?” They’ll go, “What do you mean?” You’ll go, “As I say, what do you want? What comes up for you?” My favorite question, “What’s the toughest thing about being you right now?” There are simple questions. Everybody else who are looking for good questions, start with little things but focus on how you ask them. Don’t look for the amazing scripted questions. Ask the simple questions in a more sincere and safe way. See if it doesn’t make an impact on the person you’re talking to. Remember, there are some people that don’t want to bring their wall down no matter what. We want to be careful to not take that personally because when we take that personally, we get jaded, we assume that nobody wants to bring their wall down, and then we become the person with our wall up. That’s not going to serve either.
Make a Safe Space
As we wrap things up, as things start to turn or improve, as we get used to this new normal, avoid being a positivity warrior. Put hopeful, positive messages out there when doing it in bulk or in broadcast, but in your relationships, small groups or one-on-one especially, allow it to be a safe place for them and see what happens. You might have some relationships where you’ve been the warrior or you’ve been the dismisser, the hero or the dismisser. You’re going to need to rebuild some of that and some of those boundaries but it’s worth the work. That person is going to keep coming in and trying to drain you as a well, but it’s going to be worth the work long-term to be able to pour into them or make clear that you’re not for them in whatever particular area you’re focused on.
At the end of the day, the greatest secret to success in all ventures is love, but a very particular type of love, agape love, which is clarity and accuracy. Not necessarily a warm fuzzy blanket, but clarity and accuracy. If you’re going to wheel this weapon of love, your reality is not the reality, so we want to seek accuracy. We want to assume we don’t have the whole story so that we can learn more and more about someone else, which will also allow us to learn more and more about ourselves. Thanks for being here in this Power Session. This is such an incredible, challenging and difficult time. In many cases, it’s a tragic time for sure but it is an amazing time nonetheless.
There are many things being learned. Many things are adapting and changing the landscape of what we’re looking at. I was talking with a group that many of us remember when a phone number was a location and now a phone number is a person. Look at what’s happening with Zoom. It used to be that Zoom was just for business. Now, Zoom is for everything. We have parties on Zoom. We go to school on Zoom. It’s going to be fun to watch what shifts and changes in our culture. Every time there are big changes, there are opportunities.
We’re not going to get there by being positivity warriors and alienating people who may be a little bit behind the curve than you are or at least not coping as well as you are, but we still want to be great stewards and great leaders to them by allowing them to feel safe. We do that with people. They’ll take a bullet for you, they’ll show up, they’ll be their best selves for themselves and for you. Those are great leaders. Thanks for reading and for providing your time so that I can hopefully give you a couple of insights to make a little bit of a shift there. It’s always an honor and a pleasure. Take care, everybody. We’ll see you next time.