Positiveness in interpersonal communication has to do with the use of positive rather than negative messages. For example, instead of the negative “I wish you wouldn’t ignore my opinions,” consider the positive alternative: “I feel good when you ask my opinions.” Instead of the negative “You look horrible with long hair” consider the positive: “I think you look great with short hair.” As you can expect, positive messages are important to creating and maintaining relationship satisfaction and are used more often by women, both in face-to-face and in computer-mediated communication, than by men. Interestingly enough, optimism has been found to positively correlate with relationship satisfaction and happiness; the more optimistic you are, the more your outlook is positive, the greater your relationship satisfaction and happiness are likely to be.
Here are a few suggestions for communicating positiveness.
· Look for the positive in the person or in the person’s work and compliment it. Compliment specifics; overly general compliments (“Your project was interesting”) are rarely as effective as those that are specific and concrete (“Your proposal will boost efficiency and produce a great financial saving . . .”).
· Express satisfaction nonverbally when communicating with others. For example, use friendly facial expressions, maintain a reasonably but appropriately close distance, and focus eye contact and avoid glancing away from the other person for long periods of time. At the same time, avoid negative teasing; this has been shown to lower satisfaction among couples.
· Express positiveness with a recognition of cultural differences. For example, in the United States it’s considered appropriate for a supervisor to compliment a worker for doing an exceptional job. But in many collectivist cultures this would be considered inappropriate, because it singles out one individual and separates that person from the group.