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4 Ways to Access the Power of Positive Communication
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Digital Only: Young Adults

4 Ways to Access the Power of Positive Communication

It’s about more than just smiling or saying nice things—it’s about helping others feel God’s love.

two young women walking and laughing

While casual acquaintances often believe me to be an upbeat person, I’ve never thought of myself as a beaming ray of sunshine. In fact, there’s a rather large reminder of my sometimes not-so-cheery disposition that hangs on my parents’ living room wall.

One summer when I was a child, my grandparents came to visit, and we took advantage of the opportunity to schedule some family photos. I was fully prepared in my pink gingham dress and matching brimmed hat, but things took a sour turn when I wasn’t given a stool like the ones that several family members were sitting on.

Frustrated, I frowned my biggest frown for the entire session, tainting what could have been a pleasant experience with my family and spawning decades of jokes about “the grumpy dress.”

Although I can laugh about it now, that family portrait is a constant reminder to me of the power of positivity. Being positive obviously makes life more enjoyable—because who finds genuine pleasure in being angry all the time? Not to mention, positivity has long been linked to various health benefits like reduced stress, lower risk of heart disease, and even a longer life.1

But positivity doesn’t affect just us as individuals. Our positivity (or lack of it) can impact each person we interact with. We’ve been commanded to “be of good cheer” (Doctrine and Covenants 61:36; 78:18), and as we do so in our communications, we ourselves—and those around us—can more abundantly feel the love of our Heavenly Father and Savior.

Here are a few ways we can tap into the power of positive communication.

1. Follow the Savior’s Pattern of Communication

For the ultimate example of positive communication, we can look to the Savior, who demonstrated His love for others by interacting with kindness, compassion, and understanding.

Elder L. Lionel Kendrick, an emeritus General Authority Seventy, taught: “Christlike communications are expressions of affection and not anger, truth and not fabrication, compassion and not contention, respect and not ridicule, counsel and not criticism, correction and not condemnation. They are spoken with clarity and not with confusion. They may be tender or they may be tough, but they must always be tempered.”2

Clearly how we say something is just as important as what we say,3 a lesson I learned as a piano student. Having studied the piano for most of my life, I’ve experienced many teaching styles. Though it could be discouraging to be given an endless list of musical passages to perfect, I was fortunate to have teachers who were exceptional at offering correction in a motivating and compassionate manner, and I learned about the immense power of a kindly spoken word.

2. Strive to Have a Bright Outlook

Whether we realize it or not, our attitude can impact how we communicate with others—and many other aspects of our lives. President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018) said: “So much in life depends on our attitude. The way we choose to see things and respond to others makes all the difference. To do the best we can and then to choose to be happy about our circumstances, whatever they may be, can bring peace and contentment.”4

One way to cultivate a positive attitude is to invite the Spirit into our lives. We can do this by replacing doubt and fear with faith (see Doctrine and Covenants 6:36), embracing the gift of repentance, actively striving to strengthen our testimonies, and seeking to recognize the Lord’s hand in our lives. I’ve also found that as I schedule (and follow through on) time for studying the scriptures, I feel more positive throughout the day. All these things help us feel the Holy Ghost more abundantly, leading to greater feelings of hope.

Of course, being positive doesn’t mean suppressing all negative emotions, either. I’ve sometimes fallen into the trap of thinking that I lack faith if I express concerns or feelings of sadness. But as Sister Sharon Eubank, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, explained: “Being happy doesn’t mean to slap a plastic smile on your face no matter what is going on. But it does mean keeping the laws of God and building and lifting others. When we build, when we lift the burden of others, it blesses our lives in ways our trials cannot take away.”5 While we will all experience negative emotions throughout life, we can find greater happiness as we avoid dwelling on our sorrows and seek to lift others.

3. Consider the Relationship Ratio

Optimism might not be measurable, but certain benchmarks can help us gauge just how positive we are in our interactions. For decades, psychologist John Gottman has studied what makes a healthy relationship. After observing thousands of couples, he determined a formula that can help predict whether couples will stay together or separate in the coming years with over 90 percent accuracy.6

His major discovery? During moments of conflict, happy couples typically follow a ratio of at least five positive interactions for every one negative interaction. Positive interactions might include offering a compliment, empathizing, and validating the other person’s perspective, while negative interactions can include eye-rolling, becoming defensive or dismissive, and being critical.7

Although Gottman’s research focuses on romantic couples, his conclusions can be applied to all types of relationships and highlight the detrimental effects of negativity.

The scriptures teach us, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). We may not always see eye to eye with one another, but we can disagree without being disagreeable. And as we seek to be uplifting—even in the face of conflict—we can lighten burdens and make room for greater joy.

4. Be “an Example of the Believers”

I now smile for family photos (even if I have to stand), and I’ve begun to understand how my own attitude can impact those around me, for better or for worse.

While I’m far from perfect, I try to make a special effort to be engaged when I’m in a conversation with someone, to express my appreciation for my husband and other loved ones, and to ultimately “be an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

It’s the combination of these little things—a listening ear, a positive affirmation, a sincere apology—that often has the biggest impact. These little things, which help us emulate our Savior, allow us to share God’s love.

And in sharing His love, we ourselves will feel it too.

Notes

  1. See “Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress,” Mayo Clinic, Jan. 21, 2020, mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950; see also Jane E. Brody, “A Positive Outlook May Be Good for Your Health,” New York Times, Mar. 27, 2017, nytimes.com.

  2. L. Lionel Kendrick, “Christlike Communications,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 24.

  3. See L. Lionel Kendrick, “Christlike Communications,” 23.

  4. Thomas S. Monson, “Living the Abundant Life,” Ensign, Jan. 2012, 4.

  5. Sharon Eubank, “Turn On Your Light,” Liahona, Nov. 2017, 8.

  6. See Emily Esfahani Smith, “Masters of Love,” The Atlantic, June 12, 2014, theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-ever-after/372573.

  7. See Kyle Benson, “The Magic Relationship Ratio, According to Science,” The Gottman Institute, Oct. 4, 2017, gottman.com/blog/the-magic-relationship-ratio-according-science.

  8. See Strengthening the Family: Instructor’s Guide (2006), 26–28.

  9. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Happiness, Your Heritage,” Liahona, Nov. 2008, 120.

  10. See Strengthening Marriage: Instructor’s Guide (2006), 14–15.