You Have the Power… To Lead with Positivity

UPDATED: October 15, 2014
PUBLISHED: October 15, 2014

Imagine how happy you would be if all your interactions with others were positive and pleasant. It sounds too good to be true, but it’s actually quite easy to establish.

In 2009, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, split 100 participants into groups of four and filmed them working together to solve a series of difficult math problems. Afterward they showed the video to a separate panel and asked members to pick out the leader of the group. In reality, nobody had been assigned the role of leader, yet there was full agreement among the people who viewed the video: The person who spoke first was the leader, in their view.

Additionally, an astounding 94 percent of the final answers the groups gave to the math problems were those offered by the person who spoke first. Not only did third-party observers think of these people as having high social influence, but their own teammates did, too. One person simply held more sway over the group because he or she spoke first.

Whether you’re at work or home, you can use this technique—which positive psychology researcher Michelle Gielan calls the Power Lead—to shift the social script toward positivity. If you’re meeting up with a sick friend, take the lead and start with the positive, perhaps by telling her how much better she looks since you last saw her. At meetings, be the first to speak and start with a positive topic before someone can start the social script with complaints or negativity.

After you’ve taken the lead, sit back and watch how others’ engagement and motivation improve in response to the power of your positivity.

Related: To Be Successful, Do What You Do Best

Shawn Achor is a Harvard-trained researcher and best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. Get a daily dose of happy at Shawn's Facebook page.