• Sarah Tottle

Broaden & Build



The broaden-and-build model is a theory put forth by Barbara Fredrickson, a Stanford University Professor, and argues that feeling positive emotions leads to feeling more positive emotions and enhanced creativity, problem-solving skills, and the ability to find solutions. The alternative, negative emotions, lead to reduced problem-solving skills. Negative emotions lead to survival-orientated behaviours that hinder the ability to find solutions. Fredrickson argues that when we feel happy, we are much more likely to feel optimistic and creative, thus building on our happiness levels further.

The broaden-and-build theory emerged from positive psychology in response to fostering positive organisational behaviours (Luthans and Youssef, 2007) that allow individuals to flourish.


Consequently, the broaden-and-build theory posits that positive emotions broaden an individual’s ‘thought-action repertoire’ that pave the way for creativity, innovation, taking action and increasing social bonds (Fredrickson, 2003). Individuals can then draw on these resources when needed.

According to Fredrickson (2001), experiencing positive emotions, such as joy, will increase the likelihood of an individual being creative, with other studies showing that positive emotions are linked to greater flexibility of thinking. This has been contrasted with negative emotions that have been shown to limit the person’s repertoire, narrowing their mindsets and hindering their ability to find solutions.


In the face of stress, harnessing positive emotions broadens an individual’s ability to cope (Folkman, 1997), enhances their quality of life (Fredrickson, 1998), and plays a role in fuelling resilience (Fredrickson et al, 2003). It has been linked to faster cardiac recovery from stress (Chapman et al, 2011) and happier and healthier workforces (Isen, 2001). Fostering positive emotions has also been linked to increased life expectancy and undoing the impact of negative emotions both physically and psychologically.


Broaden-and-Build at Work


Cultivating positive emotions in the workplace can have several positive outcomes, such as increased happiness, job satisfaction, fostering positive relationships, and has been linked to pro-social behaviour, which will generate more support for colleagues. Because social support is associated with counteracting stress, cultivating positive emotions will impact on the organisation through creating supportive employees. This is important, as one of the organisational stressors shown to impact on employee wellbeing is a lack of support.


The theory describes how the ten positive emotions of joy, serenity, amusement, awe, pride, gratitude, interest, inspiration, hope, and love are like the “tiny engines of positive psychology” that drive personal growth and flourishing. Research shows that experiencing any or all of these positive emotions with sufficient frequency and authenticity can broaden our scope of attention, allowing us to become more open, flexible and accepting.


Fredrickson uses the analogy of a waterlily to explain her theory. During the daytime, a waterlily will relax its outer leaves, expanding its petals and will soak in more sunlight. This is much like feeling positive emotions; we open our mind with the blinds peeled back, and we then take on more feelings of positivity in turn. Positive emotions nourish us and allow us to feel more resources.


The broaden-and-build model emphasises that positive emotions help build psychological resources. i.e. developing resilience and optimism and feeling a stronger sense of identity. They also help build physical resources. i.e. improved strength, coordination, and cardiovascular strength. They can build intellectual resources, too, such as enhanced problem-solving skills and an increased ability to learn new information. And finally, they build social resources that include strengthening of existing bonds and new connections.


The Losada Ratio


Research has shown an approximate 3 to 1 ratio of positivity being ideal in terms of high-functioning teams, relationships, and marriages. This is known as the Losada Ratio. Experiencing positive and negative emotions at this ratio leads people to achieve and experience optimal levels of well-being and resilience.


Epigenetics


Epigenetics is the study of how experience, thoughts, and words can modify our DNA. These changes can be passed on from one generation to the next. We can change the structure of our genes, and this can have lasting consequences.


A genome is a double helix code that is uniquely you, unless, of course, you have an identical twin. Added to this is another layer of complexity called the epigenome. The epigenome sits in your cells with your genome and is the instruction manual that decides which parts of your DNA are activated and which genes are switched on or off. Every cell in your body contains its own epigenome. This is impressive stuff because it is the epigenome that decides the actions of a cell.


Trauma and Epigenetics


Your DNA stays consistent throughout your life, but the epigenomes are fluid. They change as we grow (i.e. throughout adolescence), and the experiences we have in life impact on them. Epigenetic changes affect our body, both positively and negatively, and impact on the health of our bodies. Experiences, such as trauma, can have an adverse impact on our cell health. But not only that, it can also impact on our children and grandchildren’s development. This is the same as the experiences of our grandparents and parents on our own lives.


In a study conducted by Professor Yehuda Bauer, the impact of traumatic experiences on war veterans, Holocaust survivors, and the September 11th attacks were considered. The study aimed to understand the impact this had on the survivor’s children. Professor Yehuda found that children whose parents had suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) displayed PTSD and depressive symptoms, too. The children also shared epigenetic markers with their parents, meaning they were more reactive to stress.


The good news is that we can rewire and reverse these changes through our personal experiences. We can also do this using powerful words, thinking positively, seeking out joyful and enriching experiences, and keeping our focus on the here and now. Our words are powerful and can influence health at a cellular level. It is estimated that between 75 and 98% of mental and physical health problems come from the mind.


Personality Differences and Stress


Personality plays a fundamental role in stress. Everyone on the planet has a unique personality. We call these individual differences, which essentially accounts for the unique characteristics an individual has, with potential consequences to how they interact with their environment.

Personality plays a role in wellbeing. It impacts on how we feel, how positive and optimistic we are, and how we approach stressful situations. How we feel about stress is a unique phenomenon; some people thrive while others cave. Therefore, stress is a subjective experience that is based on an individual’s perception (Cummings and Cooper, 1979).


Individual differences play an important role in the choices we make, such as where we choose to work, and what we choose to do. It also plays a role in how we handle stress. Stress is seen as an appraisal of a situation. For instance, how we view the situation we are in matters more than what the situation is. If we appraise the situation as something we cannot handle, then we will feel like we do not have the resources to manage it and will feel stressful. On the other hand, if we view a situation as a challenge, and something we have the potential and resources to overcome, then we will view the situation with ease.


In workplace psychology, there are several models and theories that relate to how an individual handles stress at work:


The Person-Environment Fit


One perspective on stress at work is the Person-Environment Fit by French and Caplan (1972). Here, stress is caused because an employee does not feel they have the capabilities or resources to manage their workload. According to Taylor (1992), stress arises because the individual perceives it to exceed the amount of coping resources they have. Subjective feelings of overload can give rise to stress, especially if the stress surpasses what the individual believes they can cope with.


In another study by Lazarus (1999), it was found how the stressor or stressful situation is viewed is what accounts for stress. We call this stress appraisal. When individuals encounter a stressful situation, they attach meaning to it based on their own life experience. This, in turn, leads to them feeling either stressed out or not. Lazarus argues this stress appraisal is done in two parts. Firstly, the primary appraisal assesses whether the situation is harmful. Secondly, the individual will assess whether they have the skills to deal with the situation.


Consequences of Personality Differences on Wellbeing


Researchers into personality theory have drawn a link between Type A behaviour and coronary heart disease, as well as other physical health disorders (Russek and Zohman, 1958; Friedman and Rosenman, 1959; Friedman, 1977; Kirkcaldy et al, 2002). Type A behaviour is a spectrum of behavioural traits that encompass highly competitive behaviour, impatience, hostility, time consciousness, feelings of pressure and restlessness (Friedman and Rosenman, 1974). This is in direct contrast to Type B behaviour which is laid back and easy going.


Having an external locus of control (attributing control of situations to external sources) and a Type A personality increases the likelihood of feeling stress. These greater levels of stress have also been linked to lower levels of life satisfaction, health, and wellbeing.


While personality differences play a role in stress, they also play a role in our life choices, too; these include occupational choices. Those with Type A personality may actively choose high-stress roles that match their go-getting and driven nature. It can be a catch 22 situation.


Strength Building


Building upon your strengths is the direct result of self-awareness. We cannot know our strengths and values without first knowing ourselves. Our strengths are what we are good at. They are what we enjoy. They give us the ability to stay in the zone, or what psychologists call 'the flow,’ where we perform optimally, taking our limiting beliefs out of the picture.


It is better to become a master of our strengths, but first, we must know what they are.

Time to reflect: write down a list of your talents, achievements or enjoyments. If you struggle to find your strengths, ask a trusted friend to help you identify them.


Once you have a list of your strengths, keep a visible record. Focus on your achievements to date and this will increase motivation for achievement in the future.


Success is as much about being aware of your strengths and building upon your existing skill-set as it is about learning something new. Really explore what your strengths mean to you. If your friend describes you as passionate, find a more suitable and authentic way of expressing this that resonates with you.


Finally, our strengths may overlap with colleagues and friends, but they are also the little nuances within our personality. Perhaps the way we think or do things in a way that is unique to us.


Values in Action Classification


This classification identifies 24 strengths that sit within six categories.


The categories are as follows:


1. Wisdom and Knowledge

2. Courage

3. Humanity

4. Transcendence

5. Temperance

6. Justice


You can do a strengths test at www.viacharacter.org


Cialdini’s Laws of Influence


There have been numerous studies regarding the factors that influence people to say YES to requests for over 60 years. There is a science to how we are persuaded.


We are often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that we are confronted with. Cialdini’s law of influence has found six universal principles that guide human behaviour and decision-making:



1. Reciprocity

2. Scarcity

3. Authority

4. Consistency

5. Liking

6. Consensus


Let’s look each of these principles:


Reciprocity


According to Cialdini, people are obliged to give back to others what they have received firs, such as behaviours, gifts or services.


In the context of social obligation, people are more likely to say yes to those that they owe a favour. The key to reciprocity is to be the first to give and to ensure that the gift is personalised and unexpected.


Scarcity


We want more of the things that are scarce. We see them as being high in value. i.e. diamonds or rare gems. Using the scarcity principle, you need to not only highlight the things that are of benefit regarding your product or service, but also what people stand to lose if they don’t consider your proposal.


Authority


People follow credible, knowledgeable leaders.


One way we may show our worth and leadership is to display our diplomas on our walls, as this boosts our credibility, and in turn, our authority. We can write blogs and books or become thought leaders and influencers to ensure that our credibility in our field is boosted.


We are unique brands and being aware of how you present yourself can increase credibility and authority. This means being aware of what you wear. For example, wearing a suit can increase the authority you have, as studies have shown that those that dress smartly are taken more seriously than those that dress sloppy.


One group of real estate agents were able to increase the number of property appraisals and the number of subsequent contracts they wrote by arranging for reception staff who answered customer enquiries to first mention their colleagues’ credentials and expertise.


Consistency



Start with small consistent commitments and then build up to bigger commitments. Ask your customers or potential clients to commit to small plans. Once you have their focus and commitment to smaller tasks, you can then ask them to focus on and commit to bigger things.


Liking


People say yes to those people that they like. We like people who are similar to us, we like people who pay us compliments, and we like people who cooperate with us on mutual goals.


Consensus


People follow the actions and behaviours of others. This is especially true when people are uncertain. If we believe the majority of people are following an action, then we are likely to follow the consensus.


Achievement


According to Martin Seligman, , we need to challenge the traditional view of achievement.

He argues that from an early age, we frequently use tests to assess talent. However, what if there was another factor for assessing achievement? What if it was optimism or pessimism that matters just as much as talent and desire. If you have all the talent and desire necessary, yet are pessimistic, then you may still fail. Optimists do better at work, school, and sport. Optimism is a learned skill that can be permanently acquired.


Optimism and Health


The way we think about health affects our health. Optimism and positivity increases our overall wellbeing. We can have far greater control over our physical health than we probably think:


Ø The way we think, especially about health, changes our health.

Ø Optimists catch fewer infectious diseases than pessimists.

Ø Optimists have better health habits than pessimists.

Ø Our immune system works better when we are optimistic.

Ø Optimists live longer than pessimists.


Learned Helplessness


Learned helplessness was one of Seligman’s central tenets. It essentially means that people give up, rather than being accountable for their behaviour, arguing that people have no authority over the bad events that happen to them. Seligman argued that during his experiments on dogs, the dogs did not try to escape the shocks if they had been conditioned to believe that they could not escape them.


Humans sometimes learn helplessness, believing that they cannot change their situations and end up just accepting it. Learned helplessness has been linked to permanence. This is where a person who thinks bad things or situations are permanent, rather than temporary, are much more likely to become helpless. Changing your mindset and understanding that negative events are temporary can help overcome helplessness.


Explanatory Style


A lot of helplessness and low mood come from explanatory styles. People explain events as persistent and being their own fault (they feel like a failure). Pessimists suffer or promote the following:


Ø Depression

Ø Inertia


Pessimism


Ø Feels bad subjectively

Ø Is self-fulfilling in the sense that pessimists don’t persist in the face of challenges

©2019 by Sarah Tottle.