I was at a wedding last year at a mixed table of which I knew nobody. To my left was an enthusiastic, cheerful lady who was excited and happy to be there. Everything out of her mouth was along the lines of, “Look at these these gorgeous flowers!” and “Oh my gosh – this chicken is divine!” I loved being seated next to her because her joy enhanced my own.
To my husband’s right was a man who felt quite the opposite. I heard him say, “It’s too cold in here” multiple times and “these decorations are quite cheesy, don’t you think?” It repelled my husband and I quite a bit as you can imagine. Because aside from his negative commentary, we were really enjoying ourselves.
Hmmmm. Same wedding. Very different points of view. If you heard both of these guests speak in isolation you wouldn’t think for a second that they were at the same event. It reminded me of a story I love, an old American folk tale that when I first read it, made everything clear.
A traveller came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment.
“What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.
“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.
“They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.”
“Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town.”
Disappointed, the traveller trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work. Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk.
“What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.
“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again.
“They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”
“Fear not”, said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.”
If you ask a group of people how they feel about any situation or experience they’re going through together—a corporate restructure, a lecture, a restaurant, an episode of The Bachelorette —no matter what it is, you will see no two people experience it the same way. This is because it is never about the experience; it’s about the person. Their interpretation is based on their worldview, their current emotion, their level of self-awareness.
Essentially, our lives and our experiences are never about other people. They are always about us. Could an intimidating boss in fact be a strong leader? Could an annoying relative in fact just be caring person who loves a lot of communication? Is a little rain not necessarily bad weather but in fact quite refreshing?
In the longer term, people with a positive perspective win out over all others. It does not matter how smart, experienced, educated or hard working you are. Those of us who see the good are more fun to work with, inspire loyalty amongst their peers and clients and are lighter to lift within any group, organisation, business or friendship.
I have seen many talented people become victim to pessimism, gossip and time-consuming complaining. These people, often with absolutely zero intention, become irritating to others and worst of all harmful to themselves and their own progression in life and in business. And the sad part is that their lack of self-awareness keeps them stuck there.
At a certain level in our career or business, we have the skills, talent and capabilities to do the job. What stops a lot of people getting to the next level is their perspective and how they view and treat others. When making hiring decisions and progression planning, managers and executives want the optimistic thinkers on their team. Potential clients want to hire people who are encouraging and positive.
Before we are anything else – a business owner, a manager, a parent, we are all human beings. It is natural to want to be surrounded by constructive, uplifting people. If there are two people capable of doing a job, selling a product or service or even sitting next to us at a wedding, the positive person will win every time.
I love hearing from you! What good things are you expecting this week? Please share with me in the comments below!