Positives Attract

A while ago, I met a senior executive client for the first time. Some way into our conversation I mentioned that I liked to “call out the gold in people” and she asked me what I meant by that.

So I showed her.

I said,

“I can already see that you are a strategic delegator with a confident sense of the value of your own team. With multiple initiatives, in your portfolio, you are able to make the biggest difference by building your team’s performance. This shows a high-order leadership.”

She was impressed that I saw this so quickly at our first meeting. What I had said was positive, discerning and true. I felt she began to trust me enough to bring her most positive self to the rest of the meeting where we explored together a way through the challenge she faced.

As I go on in practice, I'm discovering something quite surprising, something that others wiser than me have known for some time: that in human relationships, positives attract. When we look for the positives in others, there is an influencing dynamic that is very powerful. The other party feels affirmed and appreciated and is drawn towards us.

In human relationships, positives attract.

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When the consultant approaches a client with a positive regard for them, looking for the good or worthy in the client, the client tends to respond and opens themselves to courage. 

The more common frame of reference, one I have subscribed to for years, is that I am paid to be a problem-solver, a critic. Well, clients do want me to help them solve problems, but I can't do this as successfully if I treat my client as a problem to be solved, less so if I make them feel like they are the problem.

I use a strategy of finding the gold in people, their strengths, their better practice, the excellence that is already there.

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More and more I am exploring a strategy of finding the gold in people, their strengths, their better practice. It is making me more empathetic and thereby I appear to be more influential as a consequence. Surely this is a more honourable attitude? We look to honour those whom we serve. 

Something profound seems to happen when you treat people as unpunishable.

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Positive psychology has been making huge contributions in business. Martin Seligman has led the charge. Others have developed powerful consulting strategies such as Appreciative Inquiry. Something seems to happen when you treat others as un-punishable, instead discovering and declaring what might be uniquely positive about them. This is now happening in organisational cultures, and I’ve experienced it first hand. In one such organisation, I received people’s positive discernment of me initially as embarrassing flattery, but after a while, my false humility dropped. I began to believe them. It’s an incredibly powerful organisation, due in no small part for its adherence to this mindset.

I recommend Danny Silk’s work, both Culture of Honor (he’s American, so we’ll forgive him misspelling “honour”) and Keep Your Love On. Irony warning: Silk comes from a Christian pastoral perspective so his faith may offend those of a nervous spiritual disposition … Seriously, read Danny’s work with an open mind. He is a man who writes from the trenches, someone who has worked this out for real in some quite difficult situations and cares deeply about those he seeks to serve.

Question:

Why do we perform better in positive relationships, when so much of human behaviour seems to be about avoiding risk or blaming others? 

Let me know in the comments below.

  • Hello Patrick,
    What you say is so true. By building a positive foundation for a business relationship, we are only following what we naturally do in our personal lives.
    In business, as in friendships, we sometimes have to deliver difficult messages. When the receiver has a positive opinion of the giver, then the ‘difficult’ message still comes across as positive. Positive in terms of helping someone and/or a business to better manage themselves.
    When I have been able to do this for someone, they have appreciated the honesty and that helps strengthen the bonds. Trust grows and opportunities for improvement and collabotation tend to accelerate.

    • patrickmayfield_bvk2y7 says:

      Hi, Roger
      I can see you speak from experience.
      In my book, Practical People Engagement, I reference Stephen Covey’s concept of the ‘Relational Bank Account.’ (I’m sure you are familiar with it.) We need to deposit something into a relationship before we can make a withdrawal.
      However, our motive for making a relational ‘deposit’ isn’t so that we can withdraw later. Genuinely, it is to see that person give of their best.
      Thanks for your comment.

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