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Invention of Lying

By Gary Rich on Sep. 16, 2010 in Leadership Bites

Imagine you go to work tomorrow and everyone in your office is telling nothing but the truth. No spin. No niceties. Nothing politically correct. Only the truth.

That was the premise of a movie I watched last week called “the Invention of Lying,” starring comedian Ricky Gervais.  And as I watched it, I learned a thing or two about the power of positive thinking.

In the movie, everyone’s real thoughts and opinions are on display so they are constantly saying things that are politically incorrect or insensitive…things like “I don’t find you attractive”, “I really hate working for you”, or “Your baby looks like a rat.”

As I watched the characters sharing all these “truths”, I noticed that in this fictional world, most of what people said to each other was negative.  Nobody said things like “The weather is really beautiful today” or  “You look terrific in that shirt”.   Of course, that wouldn’t make a very funny movie.  But it got me to thinking… How many lies do I tell every day?  And how many negative thoughts do I have, anyway?  What about the positive ones?

I watched myself for a day and realized that those negative thoughts get much more attention than the positive ones—  perhaps because I have to figure out what I’m going to do with them.  Do I say nothing?  Do I lie about them?  Do I say what’s on my mind in a more socially acceptable way?  I’m tired just thinking about it.  So those thoughts get lots of energy.  And the positive thoughts—  little to no energy.  They’re there but I don’t do much with them. 

So, what if I put just as much attention on the positive thoughts as I do on the negative ones?  I tried it for a day and discovered that I could create some pretty productive and impactful conversations.  My son actually responded when I asked him to do something! 

I think this is what Daniel Goleman is talking about in his book Primal Leadership.  He talks about how negative thoughts can “hijack” our attention and distract our focus.  He explains how emotions and moods are contagious and proposes that leaders can consciously set the tone for their teams by paying attention to their positive and negative thoughts and emotions.

I invite you to think about it – how much attention do your negative thoughts get?  How does this affect others?  Could you put as much attention on the positive ones?  What might happen?



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