There is a rule in business, specifically with respect to customer service, that a happy customer will tell three people about their positive experience, while an unhappy customer will tell ten people about their negative experience. I was discussing that with someone last week when I realized that I had accepted that statistic as self-evident, without ever considering why that would be. Why do we do that? Why do we tell more people about our negative experience than we do our positive experience? Isn’t the positive experience the one that we want to reinforce? So why do we put more time and energy into focusing on what’s wrong than we do on what’s right?
The hypothesis that I developed in the midst of this conversation was that perhaps we focus on what we feel needs to be changed. If an experience went well for us, perhaps we decide that no action needs to be taken beyond continuing to do what is already working. Whereas if we observe that a situation, circumstance, or experience is not working, then something needs to change. And in order for someone to change it, they need to understand what doesn’t work about the current situation. So we are all too happy to tell them all the things that are wrong with what they’re doing. Of course that’s not really true -- we seldom tell the person who can actually affect change what the change is that needs to happen. Instead we tell everyone else.
It is an interesting question to ponder: What would happen if we spent as much or more of our time and energy focusing on what people are doing right, as opposed to what they’re doing wrong? It seems a given that we would get more of what we want more often if we told others what they were doing right, rather than only telling them what they’re doing wrong, leaving them guessing as to what “right” would be.
For my part, right now I’d like to applaud those who respect others’ right to their own opinion, and can share ideas without having to be right or prove the other wrong. I applaud those who are fair minded, and can see beyond their own egoic needs and serve the greater good. I applaud those who are willing to own their mistakes and admit them to others so that others may learn from them, as well. I applaud those who can hear others admit their mistakes and forgive, knowing that we all make them. I applaud those who serve their fellow man; whether it be through their place of worship; social service; police, fire, or medical service; or any number of other ways, including those who serve in the Armed Forces. And I applaud those who serve simply by sharing positive thoughts, and speaking up when they see what’s working.
Scientists have discovered that happiness is contagious; meaning that we become more happy simply being around others who are happy. In fact, we can become happier if someone two degrees away from us is happier – a friend of a friend. In fact, it still works if a friend of a friend of a friend is happier – we will become happier. So, given that, I’ll leave you with this question:
What are you spreading around?