Mindsets—The Importance of Positivity and Curiosity

How important can having a positive or curious mindset really be? According to Chris Voss, a retired FBI hostage negotiator with over 20 years of experience and who now trains other professionals while also teaching at Harvard, it is critical.  Chris quotes research that has shown that a positive mindset and the positive emotions associated increase your IQ capacity and improves your frame of mind.  Seeing how life is a constant negotiation, it also helps when it comes to asking the right questions and being able to dig deeper.  The two traits are interconnected at a deeper level than we imagined.

A Positive Mindset

With the increasing speed the world is moving, the pace can really wear people down and have a significant impact on our interactions.  Chris Voss explains that most negotiations are emotional and irrational interactions, but that the academic approach focuses on rationality.  A positive mindset contributes positively towards emotional intelligence, and it allows you to keep the odds in your favor.  In addition to the impact that being positive has on the psyche, it has been shown that positivity also keeps individuals in better physical health by reducing stress hormones and the body’s physical response to them and their ability to give way to chronic health problems.

A positive mindset is powerful.  It is an ideal state of mind for optimal brain function.  But eliminating emotions altogether is the wrong approach rather we need to remove the negative ones while leveraging the positive ones.

A Curious Mindset

Being curious has always been considered a positive trait, and our greatest advancements are the result of “what if?” hypotheses.  However, rarely does anyone get directly to the desired answer, and it is the persistence and pursuit of that hypothesis the gives way to the breakthrough.  The most relevant traits to curiosity all have to do with positivity like being persistent and not giving up when things do not go your way.  Chris Voss describes this as being “antifragile”, not letting things take you off track and explains how it is impossible to be mad and curious at the same time.  Simply put, allowing yourself to be overcome with negative emotions will hold you back from doing what needs to get done to get to where you want to get to.

The Art of the Deal

When it comes to making tough decisions with no right answer, the importance of positivity and curiosity is key.  Having the ability to look beyond lose-lose outcomes has long-term importance for both personal and professional development and you can identify the least undesirable outcome through thought shaping questions.  Think of it like this, whichever decision you end up making you will regret, but which regret would you rather live with?  You have the ability to shape your reality, but you can also shape the reality of those around you, so stay positive and be curious.

What I have learned from listening to Chris Voss on communication and negotiation is that the way we think about how to get what we want is probably wrong.  A person that is trying to apply negotiation principles they learned from Art of the Deal is in for a major reality check.  The “real” in reality TV has no connection to the “real” in real life, so try not to let a person’s bravado convince or mislead when you know better.  Instead, I recommend reading Chris Voss’ Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It and learn from someone who has saved countless hostages from people—people with mean streaks who you and I would not want to have anything to do with.

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