049: Improved Happiness, Improved Performance with Michelle Gielan

By August 17, 2016Podcasts

 

Michelle Gielan

Positive psychology researcher (and former CBS News anchor) Michelle Gielan discusses connections between happiness and career success–and how to get more of both.

You’ll Learn:
1. How happiness truly translates into career performance
2. How to use “small shifts” to talk about solutions instead of problems
3. The “4 C’s” of delivering bad news better

About Michelle
Michelle Gielan is national CBS News anchor turned positive psychology researcher, who is the bestselling author of Broadcasting Happiness. Michelle is the Founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research and is partnered with Arianna Huffington to study how transformative stories fuel success. She is an Executive Producer of “The Happiness Advantage” Special on PBS and a featured professor in Oprah’s Happiness course. Michelle holds a Master of Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, and her research and advice have received attention from The New York Times, Washington Post, FORBES, CNN, FOX, and Harvard Business Review.

Items mentioned in the show:

Michelle Gielan Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Michelle, thanks so much for appearing here on the “How to be Awesome at Your Job” podcast.

Michelle Gielan
Thank you for having me.  I’m excited to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so excited to have you.  There’s so much good stuff that we could dig into, but I might ask for you to kick us off by just bringing some energy and some inspiration to this whole topic around “Broadcasting Happiness”.  But could you share with us a case study or two associated with how… This stuff isn’t just fun and games and feel-good, but it actually is generating some results, like tripling revenues or dramatically increasing graduation rates.

Michelle Gielan
Yeah, so I am so energized.  So I’m a researcher, and I love numbers at heart, I love seeing positive change that happens in individual’s lives, organizations and being able to track that.  But what’s most exciting is being able to see it on an organizational level, where many people are benefiting, the business is benefiting, and everyone’s just reaping the benefits.  

So, “Broadcasting Happiness” – the core idea around that… I’m a journalist originally, I was a national anchor with CBS News, turned positive psychology researcher; the reason is I got tired of telling negative news stories.  But what I also came to see was that we’re all broadcasters; all of us and are constantly broadcasting information to the people around us, we’re sharing information, we’re transmitting through our verbal and non-verbal channels messages that either create success for everybody or hold us all back.  

And so I don’t think people often times realize the power that they have with their colleagues, their friends, their family to influence those people.  So, keeping that in mind, what I try to do it in the work we do is empower people to see their power as positive broadcasters, understand that the best approach when showing up at work is to show up fully by talking about and celebrating successes, and then in the face of challenges focusing on solutions, not just complaining about the problem.  

And when we saw that that happened… We did some work with Nationwide Brokerage Services, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nationwide Insurance, got them to start rewriting basic business practices to broadcast happiness, broadcast that empowered resilient mindset, we saw that they were able to, in an 18-month period, triple revenues – and this is not just a small tripling – I’m talking about to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.  

The company got their insurance sales professionals off the phones, which is how they’re making their sales, it’s how they’re hitting their goals, and just had them engage in simple business practices.  I’ll give you one really concrete one – they did something called “the morning huddle” – first thing in the morning sales teams got together to celebrate one or two or three things, a success from the past 24 to 48 hours that the entire team might not have heard about, and then offer an opportunity for anyone who needed a little extra support that day to speak up, and then people could rally around them and give them the support they needed.  

That was one small change that led to not only a tripling of revenues, but they also saw an increase in new insurance application rates by 237%, and this is all in an investment of time of one and a half years – that’s it.  

And then you alluded to the school district we did some work with.  They brought their graduation rate up from 41% to 92% in 8 years, again by celebrating successes, talking about solutions in a very specific and research-based way.  The progress there has been amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh my gosh, that is exciting.  And I love numbers myself, so we’re two peas in a pod there.  And that really kind of I think puts it in a great frame or context, that it’s not just about, “Oh, I feel good”, because… Feeling good is great and probably worth it in and of itself, but there’s also great justification to make that investment of your time or your team’s time in order to pursue some of these avenues.  

And I just even love your title, “Broadcasting Happiness”, because that’s one of the things I walked away with when I read Shawn Achor‘s book The Happiness Advantage.  He didn’t say it, but when he started talking toward the end about our mirror neurons and how what we do really does impacts others, which in turn can impact others.  I walked away thinking, “Oh my gosh, not only is happiness an advantage, but it’s kind of like a duty, or obligation I have sort of morally in terms of my time on this planet.”  Now I tend to make things intense, but that’s really kind of how it struck me.

Michelle Gielan
It’s so funny because what people might not know is that Shawn Achor and I are actually married.  We’re two married happiness researchers.  We have a 2-year old, and so when we had our son, no pressure there, but people were like, “Oh, so he’s going to be the happiest kid on the planet”.  But I wish I could invite everyone to come and sit with us around our dinner table, because we talk about these exact topics, which for me are the most fascinating and interesting things ever.  

I’m obsessed with happiness research, and how we can live to our greatest potential.  I believe inside of everyone is this beautiful bright light.  How they show up every day is an expression of it and we have so many opportunities to not only positively influence our levels of happiness and the success that comes with it, but also do that for other people.  

And so just the other day Shawn and I were discussing this concept of how, and we’ve had many talks about this, but there’s a societal belief that says you can’t change other people.  Because I think everyone has had an experience where you’ve had that really negative person in your life and you see that they are trapped in this story that’s basically not working for them – it’s holding them back, it’s making them believe that they are less than, that they are undeserving.

And quite frankly we’ve all been in that situation too, where we’ve just latched on to a story that’s not working for us.  It’s very human thing.  But with that other person we’ve tried to show them the light, to help them see that there’s this beautiful path forward that’s just waiting for them, and it hasn’t worked; we haven’t been able to change them.  

And so I think happens is we globalize this viewpoint, and we start to say, “Well, I couldn’t change that person and so I can’t change other people.”  Or maybe our mom said that to us growing up.  My mom said that.  She’s a wise woman, but I think she got this one wrong.  But you can say, “Oh, you can’t change other people, that’s why when you’re looking for a man to marry, don’t find one that’s half-baked. Don’t find a project.”  Okay.  Well, I followed that one.

But I think though what this means too is, that what we’re seeing in the research now, there’s this compelling body or research in positive psychology and neuroscience, like you were alluding to with the mirror-neurons, and in social psychology that says, “Actually, no, you can change other people.”  It may not happen exactly the way you want, on your time schedule, but we’re constantly influencing other people.

I’ll give you just one example of a study that I love – test 3 people and get a sense of their mood, send them into a room, have to sit there for just 2 minutes, not saying a word, and then test their mood after those two minutes.  What we find is that the person who was most non-verbally expressive of their emotions actually infected the other two people in just those two minutes.  

So when you test them afterwards they’re exhibiting more of that mood of that most non-verbally expressive person.  And we’ve all been in that meeting where someone sat there and kind of crossed their arms, and you’re presenting an idea and they’re shaking their heads.  We pick up emotions like second-hand smoke, good and bad.  And so if all those negative people can infect us, we can as positive people infect others as well.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m convinced.  And I’ve been  there, I’ve seen it in terms of when certain people walk into the room, your energy surges or it wanes, and so I’m right with you. So now I want to hear… You mention among your book-teasers that there are small shifts in the way we communicate that can create some big ripple effects with really eye-popping stats from 20 to 40% boost in productivity, performance ratings, sales, lower stress.  So I’ve got to know – what are some of these small shifts that we should start doing right away in our communication?

Michelle Gielan
There is a clear-cut case in the research that shows us that investing in focusing our brain and the way we express ourselves with other people on the positive parts about reality, that actually pays huge dividends in productive energy, lowering our levels of stress, increasing our levels of connectedness with other people.  

And so just one small shift is, any time you have an opportunity, either in your own thinking or in conversation with other people, to move from a problem to a discussion of solutions, do it.  Do it as quickly as possible.  

We just did a study – Shawn and I – we’re doing a series of studies in partnership with Arianna Huffington and we’re looking at how when we transform our stories and our conversations, how that influences our own cognitive functioning and also business outcomes.  And in the latest study what we did was we tested people on mood and creative problem-solving abilities, and then with the control group we presented them with an article.

And it’s much like the news you read and see every day – it’s an article that merely focuses on the problem – hunger in America, how US cities are grappling with rising food insecurities and homeless.  So just the problem.  And then we test their mood and creative problem-solving abilities again.  

For the experimental group, the only difference was the article, while it started with the problem, it then went on to discuss potential or actual solutions that you could take right now.  And again, we test their mood and creative problem-solving abilities.  

When you pair a discussion of the problem with a discussion of solutions, not only does mood improve significantly – 19% less agitated, 23% less uptight, but here’s where it gets exciting: Creative problem-solving on unrelated subsequent tasks increases by 20%.

Pete Mockaitis
Unrelated, wow.

Michelle Gielan
So what that shows us as a manager for instance, or as a friend talking to one of your friends, when we can talk about and show someone else an empowered path in one domain, you actually can then import that empowered path to another area of your life.  And so the faster we… We don’t want to ignore problems; we want to have an understanding, a realistic assessment of the present moment and what’s happening.  But the more quickly we can move from kvetching and complaining and all that stuff into a place where we’re talking about solutions, the more that we fuel long-term success for ourselves and the people we’re talking to.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s so good.  So a quick shift, as soon as you can, from just talking about the problems and maybe whining or stewing on them into talking about solutions. What are some other quick shifts?

Michelle Gielan
So the really easy one – this is a 3-second behavioral change that we found has had incredible results. I call it the “Power Lead” – it’s actually the first chapter in my book when you get to the strategy section, because I think it’s just so easy to do. The power lead is taken from my days in media.  Normally newscasters and producers follow the old adage, “If it bleeds, it leads”.

For your own personal broadcast, you want to take the opposite approach – you’ve got to ask yourself what’s your top story?  What are you telling people?  The power lead is starting off conversations and other interactions with people by saying something positive and meaningful.  If I know the first few words of a conversation have a high degree of likelihood as a researcher of predicting the outcome of that conversation.  We’ve seen in meetings at work – it starts off on a good note, it goes well from there.  Starts off on a bad note and it just tanks.  

So this is for our own conversation.  The next time someone asks you, “Hey, how are you?”, there’s a massive difference between starting off by saying, “Oh, I’m so stressed, I’m so tired”, which people can only meet you with two responses – either they have compassion, “I’m so sorry”, or they’re playing misery poker with you.  Versus starting off as something positive and meaningful.  Mine today might’ve been, “Oh, I’m great.  I had breakfast with my son this morning and he was being so cute.”  It’s so simple, but that 3-second behavioral change creates connection, it takes the lead on a conversation, it empowers with other people to see that  the social scripts says, “We talk about good stuff here.”  And maybe they’ll match in kind.  And ultimately it changes the trajectory of our conversations.  

Pete Mockaitis
I really like that, and I think when you talk about having a power lead, it’s almost like you’ve thought about it in advance, so you’re ready when they say, “How are you doing?” or “What’s new?”, you’re good to go with it.

Michelle Gielan
Yes, exactly, because I think often times what happens is we’re not intentional about our conversations.  So when someone says, “How are you?”, we either play the dance, the game that says, “I’m fine, thanks”, which basically means, “Goodbye”.  Or  we turn to the weather or we complain about the commute and we miss an opportunity there to create meaningful connection with the people we’re talking to.  

Social connection is the greatest predictor of long-term levels of happiness that we have in the research.  Every time we create connection with our clients, if we’re a sales professional, with our colleagues while we’re working on a project, with our spouse we come home and instead of saying, “Oh honey, my day was so stressful”, we say, “Tell me what was the best part of your day” or, “Let me share this great thing that happened to me”, even if it was just small.  

Those are moments in which we are deepening the bond we have with those other people, and ultimately what we then see is it also improves business and educational outcomes that we’ve been tracking in research.

Pete Mockaitis
This is so good.  You are… This is right up my alley, so fun.

Michelle Gielan
You seem to have a positive disposition.

Pete Mockaitis
And the research too – that combo is hitting the spot.  Hopefully the listeners love it too.  So I’ll ask again – so, we had a small shift associated from going from problem to solution, to having a positive power lead.  Is there anything else that leaps to mind in terms of a quick small shift?

Michelle Gielan
Yeah, so one of the things that I talk about when I go give presentations at companies all over the place is I encourage people to try out our 21-day Challenge, and so I would encourage our listeners to try this out as well.  And this is about how to meaningfully activate your social support network.  I  call it “Emailing Positivity”, sometimes “Activating your 31”.  

But basically it’s sending a 2-minute positive email first thing in the morning to one new and different person each day for a period of 21 days, praising or thanking them.  And the idea behind the two minutes is keep it short and sweet because you don’t want to do a 30-minute email one day and just get overwhelmed for the rest of the challenge.  And then also you want to tell them some meaningful contribution that they’ve made to your life.  

The reason why this is important is that, first of all it feels good to be the person that sends those emails; you’re going to get the biggest buzz off of it.  But really what it’s about is it’s showing your brain how much meaningful social support you have in your life, by meaningfully activating those people.  

This was based upon a study that was done… If I could have people know about one study in the world, this might be it, because I love it so much.  People who are suffering from chronic pain – they’re suffering from a neuromuscular disorder.  Chronic pain I think it’s literally the most challenging thing someone can go through on a daily basis.  Thankfully I’ve never experienced it but just imagining how it feels when we have a headache and then lengthen that out over the course of a  lifetime.  I have such compassion.  So they had people who were experiencing this chronic pain just simply journal for 2 minutes about the most meaningful moment from the past 24 hours.  Those that kept up this practice for a period of 6 months, doctors were able to drop these patients’ pain medication in half.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome!

Michelle Gielan
Awesome, right?  So we based this strategy off of this study, and instead of having the focus be on yourself, instead send that 2-minute email outward, so not only are you reaping the benefits, but people are as well.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fun.  And if folks kind of wonder, “Why am I receiving this from you out of the blue?”  You could even have a copy-paste ready to go.  “I learned this from Michelle, and I really appreciate you”, or something like that.  ‘Cause I imagine that’s got to be the response sometimes, like, “Huh?  What?  Where?  Why now?”

Michelle Gielan
I love it, because we did some work with this one woman who’s in the Compliance department of a very large company, and she basically… People only hear from her when they’re doing something wrong.  So she said, “I’m the nicest person.  I’m actually a nice person.  I try to be nice and I don’t feel like I have a lot of friends at my company.”  

So we devised a plan where she was going to do basically this habit and just reach out to people sort of randomly, when they’re not doing anything wrong, and build those bridges.  And she said it transformed her experience at work – people got to know her as a human being and not just a compliance officer and they came to her before the problem blew up, because they trusted her.  It just made a huge difference.  

So for the rest of us I think it’s just an awesome habit, and you get to see the contribution people have been making to your life and how transformative it’s been.

Pete Mockaitis
I love this.  And so you talked about a key study that made a big impact on you regarding the pain medication.  I wanted to also reference a study you cited in terms of the Langer experiment with these 75-year-old men.  What’s that about and what’s that mean for professionals?

Michelle Gielan
Yeah, so this is incredible.  Ellen Langer is a professor at Harvard and she is one of the leading thinkers on mindfulness, and most importantly how our mindset influences everything – so health, business… And she’s done tremendous studies.  

And one of them, my favorite was, she had – this is a handful of years ago – men who were 75 years old at the time go to retreat center for one week and they were to be there as if they were 20 years younger.  So everything was outfitted in the retreat center to remind them of 20 years prior, they had name tags with pictures from when they were 20 years younger, the whole deal.  And they could not talk about modern-day, they just talked about life back in the day.  

So before and after she tested all kinds of things to do with their health, their physical whatever, everything.  And what she found was at the end of that week where they basically pretended to be 20 years younger, all these health measures improved, naive raters – people who didn’t know them and looked at their pictures – on average judged them as looking 3 years younger than they actually were, and – this is the best part – their eyesight on average improved by 10%.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s striking.  That is quite a difference from a short period of time.  And so what does that mean for folks who are trying to broadcast happiness and live in the work place optimally?

Michelle Gielan
Yeah, so don’t let your age define you, both whether you’re on the younger end of the spectrum and saying, “I can’t do this because I don’t have enough experience at work” or, “I’m too old for this.  Who’s going to hire me?”  And so I think mindset matters so much.  

We did to study where we split up stressed out managers – this was at UBS a handful of years ago – and took one group through a stress management training that’s very typical, that you might receive at your company, which is, “When you’re going stressed, how do you deal with it?  This is how you deal with it.”  

And what it teaches you is how you fight or flee from… Basically a fight or flight response.  It’s not the best way to devote your mental resources, because your brain freaks out because it realizes it’s stressed and then ultimately gets more stress.  

Versus the other group, we train them on all the ways in which stress actually is enhancing for the body – the way it improves mental agility, cognitive functioning, memory, energy levels.  We didn’t advocate going out and finding more stress, but when you are experiencing it, here’s how you can actually think about it in terms of helping your body and then see it, own it, use it.

Four months later, midst of a very stressful time at the company, we came back, tested both groups on their stress levels and the stress-related symptoms like headaches, back aches and fatigue, and found that the group that understood how to change their mindset around stress, they actually experienced a 23% drop in those stress-related symptoms like headaches, back aches and fatigue as compared to the control group.  Our mind has so much power that we’re just starting to really understand.

Pete Mockaitis
So, can you works us through that a little bit?  So when stress strikes, what’s our stop, drop, and roll or ideal kind of prescriptive protocol to handle it well?

Michelle Gielan
Well, I would love to give the 3-hour training… But to put it into just a bite-sized chunk, it’s what we shared with everyone was real facts from medical literature that showed how it actually can be good for the body and good for the brain, and then how you can recognize, “Oh, I’m feeling stressed right now.”  So that’s the “see it” part.  

Then you own it by saying, “Stress is not going to control me.  I’m going to work through it, doing X, Y and Z, and then I’m going to actually utilize this stress to enhance my performance.”  And so I think we’ve all felt the differences; we’ve all been in both states, right?  We’ve been in that state where you’re so stressed out that you’re starting to feel cloudy and foggy and you kind of can’t do what you’re supposed to do and it just feels awful, right?  

And then we’ve been on the other side and this is maybe ahead of running a race or ahead of a deadline.  I know I used to feel this when I was anchoring the news at CBS and we were about 60 seconds out from a live national program.  And it’s good kind of stress, like, “I’m ready, I’m going to do this.  It’s good.”  And it just feels like you’re at the top of your game.  And so the more we can recognize that stress doesn’t control us, that we can realize that we’re experiencing it and change our mindset around it, the more then we reap those positive benefits.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful, thank you.  And while we’re talking about techniques and approaches, could you share a little bit about what’s the “Leading Questions” technique all about, and how’s that useful?

Michelle Gielan
Leading Questions doesn’t lead someone to a specific answer, it leads someone to positive territory.  And leading questions are best used when someone is coming at you with neutrality or negativity, especially negativity.  So, you show up at work, you’ve got a negative colleague.  You call your relative and they are complaining on the phone yet again.  

Leading questions help change the trajectory of the conversation by asking a question that prompts somebody to scan the environment for something positive to say and helps get their brain off that neurotrack of negativity.  

So leading questions can be if you’re dealing for instance with a negative colleague and he is complaining about a boss.  “Oh, this boss is just doing X, Y and Z and it’s driving me nuts, and blah blah blah”.  You can gently ask, “So what’s one good thing that this person has done?”  

Of course, it’s all about authenticity, feeling the social environment and finding a good fit in the moment, right?  You don’t want to ask a question that’s going to anger somebody.  But the more that we can get them to focus on successes, wins, resources, connections, ways in which their skills can contribute to their success for instance, or good moments of their day or the gratitude that they feel about their life, the more we’re changing the conversation and ultimately changing the social script.  

My favorite one is when you first walk through the door after a long day at work, ask your spouse, “What was the best part of your day?  With your kids, instead of saying, “Hey, honey, how was school today?”  “Fine.”  Instead, we can say, “Tell me what’s the coolest thing you learned at school today.”  It gets them, instead of just defaulting to neutrality or perhaps bringing out their biggest stress, you start somewhere positive.  And then you can address all the stresses later on, but you do it with a different mindset.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s lovely.  Thank you.  And I wanted to also cover, when you need to share some bad news, like something has emerged and you’ve got to deliver that, what are the best practices in doing so effectively and in alignment with this “Broadcasting Happiness” research and world view?

Michelle Gielan
So, in my book I share 4 C’s, which are the kind of components of responding to negative news and delivering bad news better.  But hands down, I think the most important “C” of all is this idea of compassion.  When someone is experiencing negative events, sometimes it’s not our fault, it just sort of happens, but people forget that someone else is going through emotions associated with it.  

And negativity is merely expressed suffering.  If someone is complaining about something, or some negative event is happening, that person is suffering in that moment.  So if we can meet them with compassion, express to them that we are there along with them on that journey, then that makes delivering that bad news much easier.  

And then obviously there’s the other components – you stay connected to them and committed to helping solve the situation, you give context, like, “Why are we even here?”, and then also build social capital.  So those are the other C’s in the good times, so that you have connection with them when rough seas hit.  

Without a doubt, I think just taking a beat to say, “I’m with you.  I get what’s going on.  This is not fun.  I know we’re in a challenging period and I’m walking along side you, we’ll figure it out” – that makes everything else so much smoother.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you.  And could you maybe walk us through an example, like you are going to deliver some bad news to someone and you’re going to incorporate some compassion and other Cs along the way to do it well?

Michelle Gielan
Yes, and my favorite example is a story I came across about this police officer from Los Angeles.  He’s amazing.  He’s a traffic cop.  No one wants to be pulled over. This guy has pulled over something like 25,000 people over the past 20 years.  He’s gotten 0 complaints.  And so I looked at his approach to understand what was going on.  And by the way, he even once pulled someone over and this woman invited him to dinner.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go.

Michelle Gielan
So this guy is a master at delivering bad news better.  Whatever you’re doing, he’s telling you it’s not good and that’s why he’s pulled you over.  But what he very quickly does is he develops a quick verse of social capital with the people he’s pulling over by his smile and his approach and his warmth.  He’s not just all of a sudden putting you on the other side of the issue.  

He is giving you context, “Listen, I’m pulling you over because you were going 45 in a 35, and because kids live on this street and we’re trying to keep it safe so that no one gets hit.”  It just changes why we’re not supposed to be speeding.  

He expresses compassion for the situation, “I get that no one likes to be pulled over and I get that there are repercussions for actions, so I’m sorry to be delivering this news to you.”  

And then he stays committed, “I want to walk you through what’s going to happen next, I want to see the best outcome for you and so here are the next steps.”  And it’s that human approach.  

Pete Mockaitis
Fantastic.  Well, we’ve covered a lot of stuff in a short amount of time.  So thank you so much for delivering the goods.  You tell me, Michelle, is there anything else you’d like for us to be sure to cover off before we kind of shift gears and talk about some of your favorite things?

Michelle Gielan
Well, I’d love to share this one story.  I think it speaks to how powerful we are to model positive behavior, and this is one that I recently came across and I absolutely love.  So we did some work with this guy.  He sold his company for $100 million.  And you would think he’d be having a party that night.  And instead unfortunately he had an anxiety attack.  

So his wife said, “Okay, honey, we’re offblanace here.  Let’s go for a walk, we’ll go to the local high school, go walking around the track.”  And what she did what she had him talk about the things he was grateful for.  And so after the first night he felt a little better, they kept the practice up, they went the second and the third night and he started feeling better and better.  

And about 2 weeks after they started he decided, “You know what?  I’m benefiting so much from this.  Why don’t we import this behavior to the dinner table?  Let’s get our kids involved in saying what we’re grateful for.”  So the 5-year old thought it was cute, and the 13-year old, in true fashion, she rolled her eyes.  Teenagers.  

And what ended up happening though… So they started doing this practice at the dinner table.  Two weeks later he gets a call from another dad at the school; his daughter had been at that guy’s house for a sleepover with all the other girls.  And he said, “I’ve got to talk to you about your daughter.”  And he said, “Oh no.  What did my daughter do now?”  And he said, “No, actually what happened at the sleepover was that your daughter knew that there were a lot of girls at school being exceptionally mean to each other, and so she had all the other girls sit down in a circle and say nice things about one another.”

Pete Mockaitis
Wow.

Michelle Gielan
Yeah, so even in those moments when we think our behavior doesn’t matter, that positive change is not possible, that we’re not influencing others, sometimes we don’t even know how far that ripple effect can go – the wife started it with the husband, the husband brings it to the dinner table, the daughter brings it to the sleepover, the other father finds out about it.  And how far this could spread, I don’t know.  And so, in any moment that we think about how we’re showing up to the rest of the world, and we can make that positive choice, we do have a positive ripple effect on other people.

Pete Mockaitis
That is inspiring.  And so worthwhile anyway you slice it – from just good old-fashioned human decency to your own experience of life and work, to the bottom line financially.  It’s a win for everybody, and my kind of stuff.  I love it.  Thank you.

Michelle Gielan
Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
So now let’s hear a little bit about some of your favorite things.  Could you start us off by sharing what’s a favorite quote you have?   Something that inspires you again and again.

Michelle Gielan
I love quotes and I’m terrible at remembering them.  I like “Be The Change.”  I think we get such as a negative picture on the news about the world and how it’s falling apart and everything terrible that’s happening out there.  What I see though is that there are amazing stories unfolding every single day that we should be covering more on TV and online about people being the change, so just “Be The Change”.  Modeling is the best way to inspire other people.  I try to do it every day.  Still work in progress, but I love those stories when I hear about other people.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely.  And how about a favorite study?  You’ve shared several already, but is there any others that  you think are great you’d also like to add?

Michelle Gielan
Yeah, this is a study we actually ran, this was the first one we did with Arianna Huffington, because I think it makes us rethink how to start our day.  We found that just 3 minutes of negative news in the morning can lead to a 27% higher likelihood of reporting your day is unhappy 6 to 8 hours later.  So what that means is that that negative mood and mindset we adopt in those 3 minutes transforms how we look at the rest of our day and we carry that negative mindset with us.  

So what I would say is that I would encourage people to be really picky and choosy with the way they devote their mental resources in the morning.  Find podcasts like these, search for stories that are inspiring, search for even if we’re talking about the problems, the solutions that we can take because it’ll transform how you look at your work, your agency, your ability to affect positive change.  

The problem with negative news and the barrage of it is it feeds us this lie that our behavior doesn’t matter.  So what we’re searching for are examples of other people who’ve shown us our behavior does matter, and here’s how we can make this world a better place.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright.  And how about a favorite book?

Michelle Gielan
Favorite book.  Well, I’m partial; I love my husband’s books, The Happiness Advantage.  And I’m really into kids books right now ’cause of my 2-year old.  So this is so off-topic, but there’s a great book called “Extra Yarn” about this girl who knits sweaters with this endless box of yarn for her entire town.  A guy steals the box away and the yarn is no longer there.  The box and the knitting needles don’t work for him because he’s a bad man.  And then she gets it back and she knits more sweaters.  And it’s just this beautiful tale that shows that one person can transform an entire place.

Pete Mockaitis
That does sound lovely.

Michelle Gielan
It’s nice.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool, whether it’s a hardware, software, or gadget like Evernote or Instapaper?  Is there something that you find yourself using often that maybe is a little bit unique or extra handy?

Michelle Gielan
That’s a great question.  I use WordPress, I like that.  I don’t know how… There’s something called XMind that I sort of just fell into recently, and it’s a mapping software so you can start with one bubble and then map out from there.  It’s sort of how we used to do those old-fashioned brainstorms with circles and lines and whatever, but it’s all on paper.  XMind, I like it.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.  And how about a favorite habit?  A personal practice of yours that has really made the difference for you in terms of your effectiveness or happiness?

Michelle Gielan
The biggest one for me… So when I was in my mid-twenties I experienced a year-long bout with depression, which I’m so grateful for because I’m a happiness researcher now and it absolutely helped to form the lens through which I view the work we do.  When I was in the midst of that and didn’t know how I was going to get out of it, the thing that helped me was asking questions about things that were causing me anxiety.  

And I read about it in the book but this idea of fact-checking, making sure we have the most helpful set of facts to help move us forward.  And so I just went down the list; any anxiety or trouble that I had, I would go through and fact-checked to make sure I had the right story there and was I seeing the resources and connections and people that love me and things were going on well.  That’s something I still turn to.  And then in all times, good and bad, I think the practice of counting our gratitudes is so important.

Pete Mockaitis
Lovely.  And how about a favorite nugget or a piece that you share that really seems to get people nodding their heads, taking notes, re-tweeting, Kindle book highlighting?  Is there a quote we can ascribe to you, as being some people just are loving?

Michelle Gielan
So, people seem to resonate with, “Change your story, change your power”.  That’s when I like to end… Yeah, I think that and then the other thing it’s more of a concept, but this idea of… People often ask me, “Well, who’s more powerful – the positive person or the negative person?”  And they’re thinking that one really negative person on their team is bringing down everybody.  What I love is that what we found in the research it’s not the most negative or the most positive person who’s most powerful.  It’s actually the one who’s the most expressive.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, you mentioned non-verbally expressive in the research earlier.

Michelle Gielan
Yes, non-verbally and then obviously verbally too.  It’s just often we’re already positive about something, but we don’t speak up about it.  Yet the negative person will speak up, we’ll hear from them.  So we need to keep that in mind that when we’re feeling positive and optimistic, don’t think the job’s done and just stay quiet.  Really think about how you can influence others in a positive way by speaking up about how you feel.

Pete Mockaitis
Fantastic.  And folks want to learn more about you and your work and goods.  Where should they go to?

Michelle Gielan
Yeah, absolutely.  So I love being connected with everybody, so the easiest website to remember is BroadcastingHappiness.com.  I also have one under my name, Michelle Gielan.  And one thing I invite everyone to take… So we didn’t get a chance to talk about this, but they can learn more online.  We did some research that looked at the 3 greatest predictors of long-term levels of success at work.  We have a free 30-question assessment that helps you understand how your mindset works and how that fuels your performance.  So that’s available at BroadcastingHappines.com; it’s called the “Success Scale”, and I invite everyone to take it.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you.  And a favorite challenge or a parting call to action that you might issue to those seeking to be more awesome at their jobs?

Michelle Gielan
Yeah, how about the 21-Day Challenge?  I love that one.  Sending that 2-minute positive email praising or thanking someone new and different each day for that 3-week period.  And then please let me know if you have an awesome success story, if some email just rocked somebody else’s world; I would love to hear about it.  You can go to my website, any one of them and share your story there.  It’s always great because then I can pass those on to our community and inspire other people, which to me is so fun.  And then I’m also of course on social media too.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright.  Well, Michelle, thank you so much.  This has been an absolute treat, and I’m excited to dig in myself into all these things you’ve mentioned.  So I wish you tons of luck and success with the book and what you’re broadcasting, and really appreciate the time here.

Michelle Gielan
Thank you.  Thank you so much for having me!

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