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Develop a ‘positive explanatory style’

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Positive leaders have a way of telling even sob stories in a way that reveals a silver lining. That’s called a “positive explanatory style.”

Example: One day, a positive leader’s car is broadsided on the way to work by a 16-year-old making an illegal U-turn. Although the leader’s car is demolished and she’s a bit banged up, she heads to work.

“I’m so lucky,” she tells her people. “The other car hit just forward of my door. The air bag saved me from serious injury ... and now I get a new car!”

To develop that style, take these steps:

Reframe bad experiences. You’ll perceive experiences differently depending on how you frame them, just as a painting looks different in different frames.

Find good in the bad. It may not be immediately apparent, but it’s there.

Tune out the triggers that make you feel bad. Interrupt them or turn them off by substituting a different trigger that makes you feel good. Example: If a colleague starts ranting against the CEO’s strategy on a particular project, excuse yourself and go start the next phase of research on that project.

Help others who aren’t as well off. You probably do that anyway, but you can use it consciously as a tool to disrupt negative thinking.

— Adapted from Don’t Oil the Squeaky Wheel, Wolf J. Rinke, McGraw-Hill.

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