How To Spend 12 Days Tilting To The Good

by  Jane Perdue  |  Leadership Development
How To Spend 12 Days Tilting To The Good

Recently I invited three friends to be test readers for the first three chapters of the book I am writing. My ask was to focus only on meaning and clarity. I was both happy and fascinated with the feedback I received.

The comments generally followed a pattern similar to this one: “On pages 39, 54 and 75 there are spacing errors in a couple paragraphs and some of the layout is weird. Other than that great stuff, love your ideas. Provocative.”

One reader found a dangling participle that even my editor had missed.

While all responses were most welcome (feedback is a precious gift), my expectation had been that people would overlook errors in spacing and layout. However, their observations shouldn’t have surprised me. Why not? Their attention to the faults was in line with the findings of psychologist Roy Baumeister that “bad is stronger than good. Our brains react more quickly to what is negative, and bosses, society, and the like reward us for doing so.

We receive promotions for fixing what’s broken or ineffective. We get kudos from the boss for problem solving, so of course we look for problems to solve. We receive positive acknowledgment in performance reviews for removing barriers and ferreting out waste.

Adults spend more time looking at negative than at positive stimuli, perceive negative stimuli to be more complex than positive ones, and form more complex cognitive representations of negative than of positive stimuli.

To learn more, read the NIH Study.

Even our use of words is changing, tilting more to negative than positive.

Research shows:

  • 74 percent of the words we use to describe other people are negative
  • Virtue words like humility and kindness are falling out of favor as are words such as character and decency that describe the general moral worth of a person, and
  • In low-performing work groups, there are three negative comments to each positive one.

No wonder Gallup reports that only 34 percent of employees are engaged in their work.

Hmmm, it’s holiday time. Think we could capitalize on this generally good-spirited time of year to flip the focus from negative to positive within our sphere of influence and practice 12 days of giving good tidings?

Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson observes that tilting to the good helps us put challenges in perspective, lifts our energy and spirits, and fills our cup so we have more to give to others.

Ready to give it a try?

12 Days Of Giving Good Tidings

  • Day 1 – Give a sincere thank you to three people.
  • Day 2 – Overlook the molehill. Just let it go.
  • Day 3 – Smile at everyone you pass in any hallway or on the street—every time, all day.
  • Day 4 – Take a colleague to lunch and learn more about him or her. No work talk.
  • Day 5 – Shut down negative self-talk as well as bad thoughts about others. ‘Tis a day for giving the benefit of the doubt.
  • Day 6 – Be appreciative. Tell the barista how her good coffee gets your day off to a good start. Tell the receptionist how his thoughtful screening of visitors is a big help to your productivity. Tell your assistant that he’s the glue that holds everything together.
  • Day 7 – Give a sincere thank you to three people.
  • Day 8 – End your day by identifying three things for which you’re grateful. Ask someone what his or her three things would be.
  • Day 9 – Make it a point to say five positive things to every negative one that’s spoken.
  • Day 10 – Volunteer to help a co-worker who is struggling to complete a rush project.
  • Day 11 – Give a few of those out-of-favor words a workout. Tell someone how impressed you are with his character. Give someone a shout-out for being kind. Tell someone how important her grace and courage are in speaking truth to power.
  • Day 12 – Give a sincere thank you to three people.
In a world that is being reshaped by the relentless advance of technology, what stands out are acts of kindness and compassion that remind us what it means to be human.
~ William C. Taylor

My ask of you is to begin your twelve days of giving good tidings today. Then come back on day 13 and comment on your experience, good, bad or extraordinary. Game to give good tidings a try?

power of positive leadership


It’s day one…do you have your sincere thank you’s ready?
Photo Credit: 12 Days Image: Fotolia; Quote Image: Dreamstime

About The Author

Articles By jane-perdue
Jane is a leadership futurist and well-mannered maverick who challenges stereotypes, sacred cows, gender bias & how we think about power. She loves chocolate, TED, writing, kindness, paradox and shoes.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Mike Henry Sr.  |  10 Dec 2015  |  Reply

Jane, thanks again for an excellent and challenging post. I appreciate the way you insert an elevating perspective into everything you write and do. You have been a key member of this group since the beginning and you are a very influential blogger and writer. Thanks and keep going strong! Mike…

Jane Perdue  |  10 Dec 2015  |  Reply

Mike — am touched by your kind words! Thank you for having the foresight to follow your dream of making Lead Change Group a reality. I have lots of fond memories of LeaderPalooza in sunny Florida. Onward and upward!

Mary C. Schaefer  |  10 Dec 2015  |  Reply

Jane, what a powerful post and a great idea! I’ve already setup a reminder to review this list every day for the next 12 days and act upon your suggestions. Here is my first sincere “thank you” today :)

My Best,

Jane Perdue  |  10 Dec 2015  |  Reply

Smiles and thanks, Mary, for your kind words — and for letting me be the first recipient of your “thank you’s” for today. Here’s wishing that you’ll make the day for those two other recipients as you (and Mike) did for me.

Paula Kiger (Big Green Pen)  |  10 Dec 2015  |  Reply

I am in also! I appreciate having a list that has twelve items which all make me say “I can do this”! Some lists are a bit unwieldy or difficult to implement. This is just right!

Jane Perdue  |  10 Dec 2015  |  Reply

Hip, hip, hooray, Paula for how you’ve spearheaded getting the #Tilt2Good movement started! Between us, we’ve dropped the first two pebbles into the pond…now to see where the ripples will take us! Smiles and big thanks for partnering and sharing.

Mary C. Schaefer  |  10 Dec 2015  |  Reply

Hi Jane. I had to add this. My favorite barista at my favorite coffee shop asked me how I was today. When I said, “Good,” she said, “Can you be more descriptive?”

“Whaaaaat?” She said she had been experimenting with her friends. Whenever they would respond “good” or “fine” she would ask them to be more descriptive. Like, “How are you REALLY?”

When she really made me think about it, it took me a minute. I was a little embarrassed (to myself) it took me a minute. I was so NOT present I guess. I came up with “excitedly anticipatory” because I am giving a mini-teleseminar tomorrow and am excited about it. I felt good when I thought of that.

I think this barista has her own 12 days thing going on :)

Jane Perdue  |  10 Dec 2015  |  Reply

Mary — great story and big thanks for sharing it. I love how that barista is busting the paradigm on the standard “I’m fine” response to the “How are you doing?” inquiry! What a great way to model new behaviors.

Jane  |  11 Dec 2015  |  Reply

This is the coolest challenge – but secretly I think the reason I think it’s so cool is because I already do many of these things already. To keep me committed though I’m going to write my ‘actions’ and add them to my joy jar where I write a thanks every day and add to the jar all year.

I absolutely said more than 3 very sincere thank yous to people yesterday. And that molehill? Today I let a mountain go.

I’m doing this – it will be fun.

What a clever and rewarding assignment for us, Jane!

John Smith  |  15 Dec 2015  |  Reply

Hi, Jane:

What Mike, Mary, Paula, and Jane said … :)

You have stirred my interest in this research and I thank you for that (one down, two to go:). Appreciate the links to the articles.

I find our apparent focus on the negative fascinating, but have to admit I probably already knew this. My personal research consists of being scathingly honest about my own behaviors, so I will admit I find proofreading a document very easy … the errors just leap in front of me. When I try to evaluate the value of the article, I find that I need to exert much more effort.

I guess we really are geared to focus on the negative, the wrong, the poorly done.

Your list is daunting to me, because of my short attention span, but I will give it a whirl, partially because you have done such a nice job of creating a series of actions which involve some stretching, but appear doable, even at this busy time of year.

Thanks again for another solid contribution to our self-leadership wisdom – truly appreciated:)


Anita  |  16 Dec 2015  |  Reply

Thank you for a well timed article it is one I will share with others. If we all followed this advice daily think of the major stress relief.

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