The Positivity Paradox.

The real source of positivity is not what you think.

· positivity,team performance
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Recently, in a team coaching session, the topic of positivity came up. I think that it is obvious that we all crave a positive environment. We think of a positive atmosphere in the way it makes us feel: good. Feeling good lifts us up, allows space for ideas, and improves our overall performance. But what is the role of positivity in a team setting?

Positivity: More Than Just Good Vibes

We often equate positivity with surface-level happiness or forced optimism. There is also a certain distrust in the idea of positivity. It is like the Groucho Marx joke about not wanting to be in a club that would accept people like him. Team members understandably do not want to sign up for compulsory positivity.
But this misses the point about the source of positivity. True positivity arises from being able to tackle difficult conversations and challenges head-on. It's not about glossing over problems but about creating a space where everyone feels comfortable addressing them.

So it seems that the way to positivity is through, well, negativity. But how can we balance that?

One concrete step: The Gottman 5:1 Ratio

The psychologist John Gottman's 5:1 ratio illustrates the balance between positive and negative interactions. For every negative comment or criticism, aim for five positive interactions. This doesn't mean we should shy away from the negative, but rather that we should make an effort to accentuate the positive. Gottman was focussing on married couples but it can work for you at work as well.

That One Negative needs addressing

Ignoring problems or challenges is like putting a band-aid on a wound that needs stitches. That "one" negativity in the Gottman ratio is necessary. It's the catalyst for change, the driver for improvement, and the doorway to true, lasting positivity.

The Real Source of Positivity

To cultivate a truly positive environment, it's not enough to just focus on the good. We must also create a space for constructive criticism, difficult conversations, and, yes, even conflict. It's through navigating these complexities that a team comes out stronger, more unified, and genuinely positive.