Finding happiness where you least expect it

Finding happiness where you least expect it

Here, below, is my latest Body + Soul column. I hope you enjoy it:

In praise of criticism

By Dr Timothy Sharp

April 27, 2008

I READ an interesting article recently in which reference was made to the phenomenon of people setting up websites detailing what they donêÑ_ã_ê_ԏt like about (mostly) big companies.

It’s referred to as (and please excuse my language) the Google Sucks Index. Apparently, if you enter a search term into Google followed by the word ‘sucks”, you”ll find a plethora, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands, of comments expressing disgruntlement and dissatisfaction.

If you search for “Wal-Mart sucks” you”ll find more than 150,000 results; search for “Disney sucks” and there’s more than half a million; search for “Google sucks” and you”ll find more than three quarters of a million comments.

Positive negativity

The point for companies is not that some people might be unhappy with their products or services – this will always be the case – but that, for the first time in history, they can publicise their thoughts and make them instantly available to millions of other people. Many businesses are not too thrilled about this, as I”m sure you can imagine.

At the same time, however, some companies (including Dell, the computer makers) are using this relatively new phenomenon to their advantage. Instead of taking these criticisms to heart, they are taking constructive action.

In short, they”re taking customer comments on board and integrating their feedback into product development and improvements in all areas of their business.

This got me thinking: why don”t we all do this? None of us really likes criticism (even when phrased in so-called “constructive” terms), but how many of us stew and grumble and just get upset when a work colleague, friend or family member makes a less-than-positive comment? What does this achieve?

In contrast, what if, like Dell, we were able to carefully consider these comments (which isn”t the same as liking them or agreeing with them) and then try to do whatever we could to improve ourselves as a result: learn something from the suggestions, or even make something positive out of the situation?

The basic tenets of positive psychology, which are practised by the happiest and most successful of people, do not suggest that we should ignore all negatives and focus on positives.

Happiness and optimism are not about burying your head in the sand. What we know about happy people is that they do focus more on positives but, in addition, they face the cold, hard realities and deal with them constructively, actively and positively.

So why don”t you learn from the Google Sucks Index and take a good hard look at the criticisms levelled against you in recent times? Then consider what you might be able to do to turn these into positives.

If you”re struggling to do this on your own, don”t be afraid to reach out to those around you (a friend, family member, or an independent and objective professional such as a coach) and work towards turning ‘sucks” into ‘success”.