Take a moment to describe three people you know. Perhaps your kid’s coach, your neighbor, and a close friend.
Tally up the negatives and positives. What do they indicate?
Actually, they say a lot more about you than the people you’re describing.
Research indicates what we perceive in others has a lot to do with who we are. According to a study in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the tendency to positively assess people in our social networks is linked to our own enthusiasm, happiness, kind-heartedness, politeness, emotional stability, life satisfaction, even how much others like us.
A lead researcher says, “Seeing others positively reveals our own positive traits.”
The opposite is also true. The study found that how negatively we view others is linked to our own unhappiness as well as a greater likelihood of problems such as depression, narcissism and antisocial behavior.
This puts a whole new angle on the burden of being a good example for our kids.
I tell my kids to look for the good in others. And I try, I really try to do that myself.
I realize it isn’t reasonable to cast a positive light on every person we know. But clearly, making an effort is worthwhile. Besides, my kids slap my words right back at me when they catch me uttering a criticism. “Aren’t we supposed to look for the good in others?”
Those kids are beasts. I mean sweethearts.
Laura is the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything, lives with her family on a small farm and blogs with relentless optimism.