Changing Other People: Three Ways We Can Influence Others to Be More Positive

 In Better Life, Focusing on the positive, Relationships

We often hear how we can’t change other people; we can only change ourselves.  Then, today, I was reading an article by Michelle Gielan (who works with husband and fellow positive-psychology researcher, Shawn Achor) about how we actually CAN make other people more positive.  Of course, I had to learn more!  Here’s three ways we can influence other people.

1.  Use our body language and facial expression – Michelle cites a study where three strangers are in a room together in silence for two minutes.  Researchers tested their moods before and after the experiment. Repeatedly, the person who was the most nonverbally expressive of their mood, good or bad, influenced the mood of the other two people in the room. This made sense based on what I’ve learned about emotional contagion.

2.  Shift discussions from problems to solutions – She also mentions how we can influence others by shifting conversations from being problem-focused to discussing solutions to those problems. In one study, half of the participants were given an article about a problem, and the other half read an article that talked about that same problem, plus five potential solutions. The group that was also given solutions experienced a 20 percent increase in creative problem-solving on subsequent, unrelated tasks, and their moods improved.

3.  Start conversations with a positive tone – This is my favorite!  Michelle studies how words impact our mood and has found that the words we use to start a conversation impact the direction it will take. If we take the initiative to speak first and say something positive, (in the hallway at work, on the phone with our sibling, when our kid gets home from school, when we get home from work….) it sets the tone and points the discussion in an upbeat direction.  She calls this the “power lead.”

Think about the people and situations in your life where these strategies could be useful.  Where could you try one of these this week?


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Tina Hallis, Ph.D. is Chief Positivity Officer of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations increase their positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures. She is certified in Positive Psychology, an authorized partner for Everything DiSC®, and a Professional Member of the National Speaker’s Association

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