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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Self Awareness: Do You Communicate Optimism or Pessimism?

I was talking to a friend, Bill (not his real name) about a conversation he had with his brother, Joe, a year ago.  What Bill told me reminded me of how important it is to be self aware as to whether we communicate optimism or pessimism to others.  

Half Empty or Half Full?
Bill told his brother, Joe, some of his ideas about developing and conducting parenting skills workshops in his neighborhood.  Joe's immediate reaction was, "Oh no, you won't be good at that."  Bill continued by telling Joe that he was exploring possible venues in the neighborhood schools.  Joe's knee jerk reaction to that was, "It won't work.  You'll never get the schools interested in that."

When Bill asked his brother why he was being so pessimistic, Joe said he wanted to spare Bill from a big disappointment.  At that point, Bill realized that Joe really meant it, and Joe had little awareness of how he was coming across.  He also realized that this has been part of their family dynamic, and he didn't let it discourage him.

Fast forward a year later:  Bill's workshop has been successful.  Not only does he have great skills for developing and conducting workshops, honed from years as a teacher and a curriculum developer, but he's a great communicator, he has the interpersonal skills to promote and conduct his workshops, and he has personal experience as a loving dad to his own children.  He didn't listen to his brother's pessimistic advice.  Instead, he talked to other friends, who were optimistic (as well as realistic) and encouraged and motivated him to pursue his dream.  He maintained an entrepreneurial spirit,  worked hard, and he succeeded.

How often do we stop to think about if we're communicating optimism or pessimism with our words? 

Fortunately, Bill didn't listen to his brother.  He knew his brother and their parents held back on a lot of things that they wanted to do in their lives because of their fear of failure.  They're good people, but they allow their fears to overwhelm them and create obstacles for the things they really want.  As a result, they each have unrealized dreams.  Bill was determined that he didn't want to continue this pessimistic family dynamic in his own life.

This doesn't mean being a Polly Anna.  For instance, if Bill had been contemplating giving up his day job and spending his life savings on developing workshops before he knew if they would take off, it would be reasonable to suggest that he keep his job for a while until the workshops were successful.  But that's different from telling him that he shouldn't do it and no one would be interested.

Fear of failure can be powerful, whether it's our own fear or the fear we feel for people we care about.  Often people don't realize that their own fear of failure is what drives them to discourage other people, who often have very good ideas.

Words can be very powerful.  Communicating pessimism can put a damper on a person's spirit and enthusiasm right from the start.   Self awareness about whether we offer motivation or discouragement can help to keep us from raining on someone's parade.  

Self awareness can also help us to question whether we are predominantly pessimistic about ourselves and if we create our own obstacles.  If so, it takes practice and perseverance, in addition to self awareness, to change our own pessimistic thought patterns to be more optimistic.  

For more information about optimism and pessimism, see New York Times' writer, Jane E. Brody's  article:  "A Richer Life by Seeing the Glass Half Full".

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individuals adults and couples.  I've helped many clients to overcome obstacles that keep them from living fulfilling lives.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.

Photo Credit:  Photo Pin


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