Framing questions in a positive way is a must-have skill for anyone who plans to be successful. Asking positive questions requires some discipline before you feel how they help you be more effective, and it takes time to learn to see the good side in everything, but I’m going to make it all a bit easier for you.
Today I’d like to share with you some principles which are key to positive questions. If you believe you don’t know how to ask anything in a positive way, let’s see how I can help you. If you can relate to anything written below, please leave a comment – I’d love to discuss positive questions in more detail and your opinion will definitely help me identify future topics.
Learn to see the good side of things
One of the most basic things, seeing the good side in everything, may be tricky if you never tried this concept before.
How about this: every problem is a challenge, and every challenge has a good reason behind it. We just have to look really hard to see it, and one of the ways to do it is to simply start with – you guessed right – simple but positive questions:
- What is good about this?
- What is the positive way to describe it?
- What is the best thing I can do right now?
- What benefits does it give me?
- What can I learn from it?
These questions can and should be asked about any challenge you find yourself facing. The most important rule for them is this: by definition, positive questions get only positive answers. If some negative thought tries to get into one of your answers – throw it away. Positive question accepts only positive answer! No exceptions.
Example of Positive Questioning
At work, you are given a task which you don’t understand. The result isn’t clear, but the stakes are high and the deadline is very real. There’s the typical pressure, and this naturally makes you nervous.
Positive questions may help you turn this whole situation around, and here’s how:
What is good about this situation? It’s a challenge. The stakes are high – which means you will get rewarded when you get it done.
What is the positive way to describe it? It’s an opportunity for you to learn something new, get a very important task done and recommend yourself as someone people can count on.
What is the best thing you can do right now? You should talk to your boss or your colleagues to confirm what exactly the task is. Just full understanding of the task alone will make the task much easier to accomplish.
What benefits does this assignment give me? Plenty: you will acquire some new relevant knowledge. You will boost your confidence level when you accomplish such a tricky task. You will earn the trust of your colleagues. You can even get promoted for doing something like this!
What can I learn from it? Once the task definition and a list of objectives are confirmed, you should be able to list a few new things you will learn from working on it. Sometimes it will be knowledge specific to your field, in others you will only acquire or improve general skills like problem solving, project management basics, communication skills, improve your brainstorming or presentation skills. When you put this into perspective – that any challenge, no matter how negative it seems, teaches you something new and useful – it starts meaning a lot.
Learn to see the good side of things! If you’re given a challenge, look for ways to get maximum benefit from it, not how to get rid of it with minimal embarrasment.
Ban all the negativity
That’s right! Agree with yourself to not tolerate the negativity anymore!
First of all, you should stop yourself from being negative. This includes, but is sadly not limited to, the following things you have to stop:
- calling yourself stupid, slow, fat, ugly, or anything else
Simply stop doing this, once and for all. Remember: every time you say something like this to yourself, you’re reassuring your mind of the partial truth in what you’re saying. And since we ALWAYS exaggerate the negativity in such exclamations, you’re slowly but surely making things only worse. Stop!
- using negative affirmations
This is simple. Every time you need to give an answer to any question, give it whichever way you want, but don’t use the negative affirmations.If you’re asked for a name of a friend which you can’t remember, instead of saying “I can’t remember”, say “Let me think, I should definitely remember”.If some question seems to hard to answer, instead of getting back to the “I can’t” right away, use every way possible to reassure yourself you can answer it. The reality of most challenges is that they’re only challenging because of some situtional constraints. You may not be able to give a definite answer only because you’ve forgotten an important name, however you may now the rest 90% of the story. Still, instead of explaining it, you would rather say “I don’t know”.
- reporting positive progress in negative terms
That’s a very common issue for everyone. We tend to use negative words in reporting any kind of progress, thus diminishing the little positive steps in the right direction.If your goal is to lose 5kg, and you’ve lost 2kg so far, you’ll more likely to say “I’m still too fat” than “I’m in great shape and almost hit my target”.It’s unbelievable how much insecurity we plant in our minds by simply not recognizing the success we’ve already seen.If you haven’t finished 2 tasks out of 5 on your list, instead of saying “I haven’t completed 2 tasks of 5”, say “I’ve got 3 major tasks out of the way! 2 more to go”.Wording is everything. Don’t let the negative terms make your accomplishments smaller than they really are!A well-known example: a visit to a physician. Given the same situation, one of the doctors might say “75% of people in your situation recover without any problem”. The other one could give the same piece of information by saying “25% of patients in your situation never make a recovery”. Can you guess which diagnosis most people would like to hear, and which of the two physicians they like prefer talking to?Yo see, the same information sounds and makes people feel very differently depending on the words used to deliver the message.Stop using negative affirmations! There are no things you can’t do and no things you don’t know. There’s only a bit more time you may need to concentrate on improving yourself or thinking how to best present the solution.
Look for new angles in each challenge
Next time you find yourself in a dreadful situation, take the time to recognize all the possible ways to look at it and extract something useful out of the experience.
The most important thing about recognizing the good about seemingly bad is to expect the positive outcome, to look for this with a certainty. Something positive has to be in any situation, and that’s what you need to do – find it.
Now, I’m not suggesting you try to fool yourself. When the situation looks awful, don’t pretend everything’s great if you don’t believe it. But find just one good reason to go on, and settle on it. Don’t expect this reason to outweight all the negativity of the challenge. In many cases, it won’t be possible.
But working out the habit to see good in everything you do, recognizing the positive possibilities no matter how small they are compared to the rest negativity is exactly how you eventually learn to look at each and every challenge from the positive side.
Eventually, you will learn to see the good instantly, and feel like you really have to try hard to understand what can be so bad about each situation – you will turn things around in your mind.