A Simple Game-Changer

May 23, 2010 | Updated Nov 17, 2011

What if ... we focused on and appreciated "the good" in people instead of looking for and magnifying "the bad"?

I know, I know, we have all done this at one time or another but some, well, let's be honest, many, do it all the time. Unfortunately I believe, as a culture, we are more conditioned to see what's "wrong" in people (and circumstances) than what's "right". It can definitely be considered a social disease.

This weekend I was sitting outside with a group of my friends enjoying the amazing weather and one of them, a relationship expert for a hit TV show, was telling us why he believes so many relationships fail or never even get started. The first thing he said was, "Everyone is so focused on finding the faults in other people that they can't even see or appreciate all the positive qualities a person may have." Sadly, I agree with him, hence the inspiration for this article. But this goes well beyond the intimate relationships he was referring to and extends into every relationship of our lives; most importantly the relationship that begins with ourselves.

Let's seriously think about how just this one behavioral change or paradigm shift could positively impact the world around us. I believe it could instantly spawn a higher sense of internal happiness and fulfillment and definitely increase the positive affect relationships have on our lives. The domino effect from that could be increased productivity, self-worth, self-esteem and willingness to take risks and pursue our desires. Additionally, the gratification that we would get from spending time with the people around us would add so much more value to our lives that we would seek it less from material validation.

Think about how you feel when someone compliments you. It makes you feel empowered and proud; it probably increases your confidence too. So imagine if we personally committed to looking for all the positive qualities in others around us and even complimented them on it. What impact could that have? How many lives could you positively affect each day?

If you understand the effects of positive reinforcement and the evidence that surrounds it, imagine what would happen if we applied that to our own lives and how we interact with others. Wouldn't we then be able help others see the good in themselves? And by complimenting we could reinforce, therefore encourage the continued behavior. For example, if someone does something thoughtful and you compliment him or her on it, doesn't that encourage more thoughtful behavior, which then equally discourages selfish behavior?

So why do we do it? I don't think there is one answer here but I would definitely say some of the top factors are bad habits becoming acceptable behavior, ignorance, fear of vulnerability and lack of confidence. I am by no means asking people to be naïve or trusting of people who may not be trustworthy, but simply suggesting to shift the focus and see what happens.

I am very fortunate to have many wonderful friends who have conditioned themselves to see the positive in people and situations (for the most part, no one is "perfect") that sometimes I forget how much of an epidemic this is. But after discussing it this weekend I couldn't stop thinking, "What if ... we all became more aware of how we should appreciate people and chose to focus more on their great qualities instead of finding "what's wrong" ... what a game changer that could be; independently to globally.

So, why not try it, if even for a day?