Positively speaking. Am I full of it?

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I used to argue with my daughter about the “half glass of water.” I claimed it was half full. She always said half empty. The more I tried to convince her to think positive, she affirmed the negative. I gave up.

This came to mind when I read some research on how to communicate with others – especially folks (including children) who don’t see eye to eye with you on certain things.

Be careful with negativity. Research has shown that negativity has a detrimental effect on the brain. It can change neural pathways (form ruts) and lead to long-lasting negative thinking. Evidence also shows that positivity – using words that express kindness and respect – can open pathways to further communication and create connections for more constructive dialogue.

That’s the central premise of "Words Can Change Your Brain," a book co-authored by Andrew Newberg, M.D., director of research at the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine and Medical College; and Mark Waldman, Loyola Marymount communication professor.

They believe that from an early age our minds are “hardwired to respond favorably to certain types of speech and negatively to others.” As children, our brains are molded by the words we hear. Teaching children to use positive words helps them with emotional control and can even increase their attention spans.

Newberg states: “If you’re always emotionally stressed as a child, you become more easily stressed and more anxious throughout the rest of your life, almost. Those early childhood years are really essential for trying to create connections in the brain that foster more compassion, love and forgiveness and less fear and anxiety.”

Research also indicates that we often talk too much – longer than the average person is able to easily digest. Our brains can only grasp four things at a time. If you speak too long and make numerous points, the person listening will get just a portion of it. Eyes glaze over. Minds wander off. So I’d better finish this.

To get your point across, try to be more positive than negative. Use short sentences, simple words, and avoid adverbs and adjectives (which show bias). Limit your argument to just a few sentences at a time, approximately 30 seconds max. After that, comprehension drops like a rock.

Compassionate and kind trumps mean and nasty. Enough said.

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