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The Ups and Downs of Positivity

strengths Dec 19, 2019

Sometimes when my family is getting ready for the day, I’m told to “dial it down.” Not all of them appreciate my happy dance while they’re eating their oatmeal. At 6:30 AM, they don’t all share my enthusiasm for all the exciting things that could happen that day. For them, getting out the door on time is enough. That’s alright, dialing it down is fun, too.

What I’m describing is positivity, and it’s one of my main Clifton Strengths themes. According to Gallup, “People exceptionally talented in the positivity theme have contagious enthusiasm. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do.”

Some of you are thinking, “I love people like that!” and some are thinking, “I hate people like that!” That’s okay, we’re all different. There are ups and downs with positivity. Let’s talk about some of them.

Learn about the strengths and shortfalls of each of the 34 talent themes.

The Ups of Positivity

Bringing enthusiasm, energy, and fun

People high in positivity bring enthusiasm, energy, and fun to others. We’re excited about what we’re doing and spread cheery optimism wherever we go. Positivity helps to turn mundane tasks into marvelous moments and brings refreshment and fun when it’s needed. It’s like pixie dust.

Helping others to see the positive

Some folks see downside and disaster in everything; their cups are always half-empty. But folks high in positivity can balance their perspective. We help others to see the good and the beauty and the hope and the advantage when they can’t. Not everything is falling apart.

Recognizing the work of others

We all want to be recognized for the work we do. People high in positivity are quick to point out the good done by others. We celebrate achievements and hand out praise. We help others to feel appreciated for their contributions. A little recognition goes a long way.

While there are some awesome ups with positivity, there are also some downs.

The Downs of Positivity

Unrealistic perspectives

Positivity can create unrealistic perspectives. Sometimes I’m so convinced that something will work out swimmingly, that I ignore the signs that it will not. I don’t do the work that is required because I think it’ll naturally turn out good. So I say yes way too often or fail to plan. But what will strengthen positivity is to ask, “What is realistic here?”

Shallow if not rooted

Positivity can come across as shallow if not rooted in real reasons. If I fawn over someone’s effort, but don’t give specifics, it sounds like giving an award for participation. Yay, you showed up, that’s so good!—No one really wants that. What will strengthen positivity is to add specifics to the praise.

Inability to Empathize

Positivity tries to see an upside in everything. I’ve noticed that I want to move others quickly away from "downside" emotions like grief or anger or fear. But sometimes it’s better to sit in the downside for a while. Sometimes you need to sit with someone who is grieving or angry or scared and let that be okay and let the process work. What will strengthen positivity is to empathize with folks when appropriate.

Positivity plays a powerful role in our world by bringing energy, helping others see the positive, and recognizing the work of others. We can strengthen its power by having realistic perspectives, rooting our praise in specifics, and empathizing with others.


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