Our beliefs and perspectives are formed over our lifetime, through all of the learning and experiences we have, both positive and negative. If we are unaware of our beliefs and perspectives and how they shape how we interact with the world around us, we are more likely to bring our biases into our relationships. These biases are formed from positive and negative interactions we experience over time. For example if we have had negative experiences of authority figures in the past, we tend to believe that all experiences with people in authority will be negative.
The reality is that we are all hardwired to see the negative in people and situations before we see the positive. This is known as the negativity bias and is a primal survival mechanism we are all born with. It is the part of our brains that helps us to identify threat and danger quickly so that we can respond accordingly to any threat either real or perceived. These days thankfully most threats that we sense are perceived through our thinking patterns and negativity bias.
This is why becoming self-aware is key to developing positive relationships. If we naturally see the negative in people and situations, this tends to lead to criticism, judging and complaining about the people around us. We have all experienced workplaces where this reaction has taken hold and become toxic. Relationships are poor and stress levels are high. People working in these conditions will find it very difficult to break the cycle of negativity as they are essentially in survival mode. Once there, it’s very difficult to allow subjectivity form part of our perspective.
To counteract this and strive to develop positive relationships, we must challenge ourselves to pause and observe our reactions to people and situations we encounter every day. This pause will allow us to choose to respond more positively and not rush to quick negative conclusions and reactions. The most skilled people at developing relationships, often take a deep breath before responding. These couple of seconds allow the space to think rather than react, which is very important especially when dealing with challenging situations.
To put this into practice requires some dedication and discipline, but when it comes to promoting a culture of wellbeing in your organisation the reward will far outweigh the cost. One of the best ways to begin to do this is to reflect on our interactions and actions on a regular basis. Instead of allowing our impulsive thinking lead us, which is usually made up of criticism and complaining, reflection means looking inward and asking ourselves if we could have handled some of the interactions we had in a better way. Developing this practice over time will help to challenge limiting beliefs and perspectives and develop a more purposeful approach to personal and professional interactions.