Recently I watched a great TED talk by psychologist Guy Winch. He made a point so clearly that it struck me to be exactly how we should be explaining why positive psychology is so important.
He tells the story of being at a friend’s house and noticing the behaviour of their 5 year old son. The son was standing on a stool brushing his teeth when he slipped and grazed his knee. After a few tears, he got right back up onto the stool and picked a plaster out of the cabinet and put it safely over his cut. At only 5 years old, he knew both proactive (teeth brushing) and reactive (plaster) physical first aid. Why, Winch asks, do we not teach our children, or indeed adults, the same first aid for emotional injuries?
Winch makes an excellent case for teaching kids and adults alike the tried and tested methods to respond to emotional injuries; be they failure, rejection, or loneliness to name just a few. That’s exactly what we do in our Silver Linings: Resilience and Emotional Intelligence workshops. And countless studies have shown just what a remarkable impact resilience programmes can have on people’s lives. See here for just one example.
I would go one step further than Winch in the argument. When we work with our clients, the employees are often reeling from some sort of negative event – be that a restructure, redundancy or even a poor relationship with their line manager. Some of them are even suffering from the uncertainty that comes with largely positive events such as quick growth and promotion, new responsibility and managing high performing global teams.
Note the terms: reeling and suffering. If these teams had practiced proactive emotional health, the negative impacts would be much more short-lived and less intense. And the impact on their performance at work would be considerably less dramatic. Do you know a physically fit and healthy person who also suffers from terrible flu regularly? Probably not. The same is true for emotional health – proactive actions such as practicing optimism and gratitude, make us more ready for the ‘psychological infections’ of everyday life. We don’t gloss over them, just like we don’t ever remain entirely germ free, but by understanding them we ride the storm much more effectively.
This is our fundamental philosophy as a business. When positive psychology programmes become part of the DNA of a business (just as they are beginning to do in schools), HR teams will see a reduction in the ‘fire-fighting’ they have to do because individuals will have dealt with the stresses themselves. HR teams are freer and the business saves money. What’s not to like?
Written by Jen Rolfe for Practically Positive