Parents celebrate a child’s first words. There is anticipation for the words that follow. Contrast a child’s first words with the first words of an average, everyday conversation. It is highly likely you have never considered how you begin a conversation. Do you open a conversation with a derogatory statement or a positive statement?
Here are a few ways people initiate conversation:
Negative Nellie – “This place has the worst service.”
Our first words set the tone for the remainder of the conversation. Why do so many of us begin a conversation with a negative tone? Negativity sells. Ever wonder why news headlines have a negative tone? The media understands the psychology of people and we are far more likely to pay attention to a negative headline versus a positive one. Negativity sells and we instinctively know it, so we tend to initiate conversations with negativity to increase our chances of connecting.
The Gossip – “Did you hear what so and so did?”
Misery loves company and business is good. How can we trust a person that is always talking about others? We can’t, and we instinctively won’t. Gossip helps our ego feel better about itself in a superior way. Gossip is really deflection or avoidance. Don’t look at my flaws, look at theirs. The lowest form of connection is gossiping because it is not able to foster trust. The foundation of a relationship is trust and if you are always speaking ill of others, you are not trustworthy.
Monday Morning Quarterback – “Why did they do that? Can you believe what they did?”
These people second guess everyone and everything. They are the internet trolls looking for an opportunity to laugh at the efforts of others. The Monday Morning QBs have low self-esteem and lack initiative. It feels good to watch others fail when deep down, they lack the courage to try. Second guessing is easy after the results have been posted.
The Pessimist – “This isn’t going to work. Why are we doing this?”
The pessimist is akin to the Negative Nellie, but they have a victim mentality. They assume the worst and always feel sorry for themselves. Life has been a series of awful circumstances for them and they lack the ability to see it another way. The pessimist is sad and they want to bring everyone down to their level of dissatisfaction with the world. They know all the reasons why it won’t work.
Boastful Buddy – “Oh, I did that but did it even better.”
They just can’t help it. Being this awesome takes work and you just can’t imagine. Somewhere along the way, the humility regulator got knocked out of their head. These people crave recognition like nobody’s business and will seek it even after receiving it. They never ask a question about you because they are certain they are more interesting. Truth is they are totally insecure and likely seeking validation or significance.
Positive Penny – “A bird just pooped on me, that must be good luck!”
These people seek the good in every situation. They are great teammates for most people but annoying to some, especially The Pessimist. Many people that don’t have a perpetually positive disposition scoff at those that have this mindset. Unfortunately for the positive people, they tend to draw negative people into their lives. They are so hopeful that they believe they can convert them. Unfortunately, the predisposition of each person can seem impossible to change. Why is our predisposition so difficult to change? I believe it is because the overwhelming majority of people have no ability for self-reflection. Because of the inability to observe themselves, they never know how they are showing up. When you tell a negative person that they are negative, they never say you are right. Instead, they deny it and might say “I am a realist.” The most difficult and sometimes painful reality is being honest with ourselves.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself if you are brave enough to wrestle with reality:
How do I begin conversations with friends, family, and strangers? Am I positive, negative, or neither?
Do I seek to find fault with my inquiry or look to see what is right with the situation?
Do I build people or tear them down?
Think about the last conversation you had with a friend about your spouse, sibling, parent, or another friend. Were you overly critical as though you have it all figured out? The truth is when we tear others down, it is because we lack confidence and crave a feeling of self-worth. We can achieve this in one of two ways. We can tear others down, or contribute to building them up. Tearing down is a fleeting feeling of self-worth, while contribution is a lasting sense of self-worth.
Think about how you are showing up in every conversation. What are your first words? Do you offer hope or spew poison? Make your first words set the tone for a positive interaction and you will begin to change the lenses through which you see the world.