The spiral of positivity — the power of thoughts and language

Continuing his series on attitude in customer service Steven Harris explores the importance of thoughts and words.

Put your hand up if you talk to yourself? Whenever I ask groups that question, 80-90 per cent of the audience put their hands up straight away. I can usually see the rest thinking to themselves “Do I talk to myself? I don’t know do I talk to myself?”

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Psychologists tell us we think over 55,000 thoughts a day and many of those thoughts are about ourselves, how we are doing, how we are feeling? What we think of other people, what they think of us and so on. If our thoughts are constantly positive there is a pretty good chance of us feeling good.

However, if those thoughts are constantly negative there is an equally good chance of us feeling anxious, down or low. Therefore we can conclude if we want to feel good about ourselves, (and by the way when we do feel good we are more likely to have better interactions with our customers and other people) we need to be thinking more positive thoughts than negative thoughts.

Now many of our thought patterns were developed and set at a very early age. If our parents or grandparents regularly use negatives about their offspring such as: “WHY would you want to do THAT?” or more specifically, “Whatever makes you want to go and live in London? You will NEVER come back.” (Mine were right by the way) Another common one, “the grass isn’t always greener you know”, it is understandable why we think the way we do. But like all bad habits, with a bit of work, they can be broken.

I always advise people to become more aware of what they are thinking about when they first wake up in the morning and when they are about to go to bed at night. If your thoughts are negative at the start of the day, it is likely that the rest of the day will follow suit. It’s almost as if you are setting the rudder for the day and that’s the direction you will end up going.

If on the other hand you think of something that makes you laugh or smile or makes you feel good, that too is setting the rudder for your day and there is a much greater likelihood that you will go on to have a good day.

What happens by making a conscious decision to think positively is that you will then break the cycle. It is a fact you cannot think of a positive at the same time of thinking of a negative. So if you catch yourself thinking negatively my advice to you is try and flick the switch and make a conscious decision just to think positively.

A few years, ago when delivering one of our programmes for one of our clients, I met a lady called Joanne at one of my workshops. She didn’t contribute and you could tell from her whole demeanour that she was quite negative. She sat at the back of the room, with her arms crossed not talking to anybody.

In fact I found out later on that she was known as the store ‘mood hoover’, as she would suck the life out of everybody and drag the whole team down. Once the workshop started, I could tell that she was listening as she was nodding and making eye contact with me. It was an afternoon session and finished close to the end of the day.

The next morning I was scheduled to be back in that store coaching on the shop floor. When I arrived, the manager came running up to me asking me if I had seen Joanne. For a moment I was worried and thought that maybe she had left the business. The manager soon alleviated my fears and explained she hadn’t left the business and that I should go and see her on the shop floor.

So I went to find Joanne and I found her chatting in a very friendly way, with a big smile on her face, to the rest of the staff. I asked her what happened to her and she simply explained how she had found my session very interesting especially the part about the spiral.

She said she had gone home after the session in the usual way and there he was (her husband) sat watching the TV waiting for his dinner. He then spent the whole time, while we were eating, being negative about his day and his job. Then he started to be negative about Joanne’s day and her job.

Nervously, I then asked what happened next. I say ‘nervously’ because it was one of those moments when because of how she was talking you think momentarily that she may have finished him off. Thankfully she hadn’t and instead she explained that she had said the following to him. “Listen here you Neg. You are not bringing me down my spiral ever again.”

Well you can imagine her husband looking at her not having a clue what she was talking about as he had not attended the training session.

She went on to explain that for weeks it had been the same pattern. She had got home and there he was being negative about his day and his job, then he turned on Joanne and was negative about her day and her job. This in turn she explained, was causing her to be negative. She then went to bed feeling negative, woke up feeling negative and then she would just bring that negativity into work every day and spread it around.

The spiral, she explained, had taught her that she has a choice how she responds. The spiral taught her that when she gets up in the morning she can choose whether or not to have a bad day or a good day. She realised for the first time in many months that she could choose how she responded to her husband’s bad mood. That day, rather than being stuck feeling negative, she decided to have a good day.

For me what was really powerful was not only had it awakened an awareness in Joanne that the choice was hers, but also the impact that it had had on the team. It’s really easy for one person to bring down the mood within the team. That day Joanne was having the opposite effect in that she was helping to create a positive atmosphere within the team.

Now Joanne uses different language, doesn’t drop grenades into conversations and chooses to stay at the top of her personal spiral. For those interested, she is still married.

About the author

Steven Harris is founder and managing partner of Energize Learning and can be contacted at and these articles are based on his book Fired Up and Ready to Go!





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