Why positive thinking doesn’t work


Alright, so that’s not exactly true … positive self-talk is generally more effective than negative self-talk. But it turns out that there is something more effective still.

Some research that’s come out of the University of Illinois (where incidentally, I studied for a year, back in the day) is telling us that “interrogative self-talk” is more 50% more effective than “positive declarative self-talk.”

Dan Pink, who quotes this research in his recent book To Sell is Human, puts up a great poster child for interrogative self talk – Bob the Builder. If Bob was into positive thinking, he’d be saying “we can fix it.” If he was a negative self-talker there would a loop in his head playing something like “there’s no way we can fix this.” Instead he asks the question “can we fix it?”

Which, according to the research, is much more powerful. Primarily because Bob asking “can we fix it?” implies an underlying question “how can we fix it?” which is much more likely to lead to strategies and tactics to help him fix it.

So if you want to reach black belt in your thought leaders practice, rather than telling yourself you can do it, ask the question “can I achieve black belt?” and then explore the underlying question “how can I achieve black belt”.

Love to hear your thoughts about this crazy notion of interrogative self talk – you can leave them below.