How I Cultivate Explanatory Style to Benefit People Around Me
By: Tim McGuire
April 24, 2023

One of the most rewarding aspects of my interaction with people in my day to day dealings is the direct feedback I get from my clients. Maybe it's symbolic of extraversion, but compliments are like crack to me. Many buyers who come to open homes comment on my positivity. Some of it comes naturally, although, over the years I have also learned a thing or two thanks to some great mentors and coaches. One of the most power techniques I adopt to maintain positivity in my life is the approapriate use of language and careful attention to the manner in which I speak - both to others, and to myself.

I find "explanatory style" invaluable to many areas of my life, such as parenting, coaching, personal excellence and more. In "Learned Optimism ,"  clinical psychologist, Martin Seligman, introduces the concept of explanatory style, which refers to the way we explain events to ourselves. One aspect of explanatory style is permanence, which refers to whether we view an event as temporary or permanent.

Temporary setbacks are events that we view as being temporary or transient, and we believe that things will improve in the future. In contrast, permanent failure is an event that we view as being permanent, and we believe that things will never get better.

When faced with a temporary setback in the real estate market, we might experience a dip in sales or a decline in property values. If we have an optimistic explanatory style, we might view this setback as temporary and believe that the market will eventually recover. This optimistic outlook can help us stay motivated and persistent in our efforts to succeed, even when things are difficult.

On the other hand, if we have a pessimistic explanatory style, we might view the setback as permanent and believe that we will never be able to succeed in the market. This pessimistic outlook can lead to feelings of hopelessness and discouragement, which can make it more difficult to overcome obstacles and achieve our goals.

Our dialogues with ourselves and others can either reinforce these beliefs or allow us to transcend them. For example, if we engage in negative self-talk and constantly tell ourselves that we will never succeed, we are reinforcing the belief in permanent failure. However, if we engage in positive self-talk and focus on the temporary nature of setbacks, we can cultivate a more optimistic outlook.

Similarly, if we engage in negative conversations with others, such as complaining about the state of the market or dwelling on past failures, we are reinforcing the belief in permanent failure. However, if we engage in positive conversations and focus on solutions and opportunities, we can help ourselves and others cultivate a more optimistic outlook and overcome setbacks more effectively.

The words "always" and "never" are powerful and can be used to build people (or ourselves) up or tear them down depending on the context in which you use them. Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone hurling "you always..." or "you never..." at you? Too often, these phrases are used in a destructive manner and seldom are such sentences used wisely. A caring friend might complete such a phrase with "You're always... making the most of every situation". All too often, in a moment of hot-headedness or despair, the phrase descends into the negative as "You're always.... forgetting something", or "You never... listen properly".

Whether these absolutes are used positively or negatively, neither is true; you might frequently forget and fail to listen, and you may not make the most of every situation. These stretches are called exaggeration. Exaggeration has its place, and the way to use it is with permanent phrases, which moves the target towards as optimistic disposition. If positive behaviours are parsed in the language of permanence, we will engender a enthusiasm and persistence, even when success is sparse and spasmodic!

The opposite of optimism is despair and apathy. Whilst we should not gloss over failures entirely, if we recognise them briefly, we can then divert attention to the small wins and past glories, and inspire hope of future success. Ignoring failure can be destructive, but the language of exaggeration and permanence must never be in favour of the negative, or the person on the recieving end of the comment will eventually become negative, despairing, angry, or depressed. What our subconscious hears is prescriptive because deep down language directs our thoughts, and what we dwell on springs forth action.

In short, by cultivating an optimistic explanatory style and engaging in positive self-talk and conversations, we can transcend beliefs in permanent failure and focus on temporary setbacks, which can help us stay motivated, persistent, and resilient in the face of challenges. Being acutely aware that I can be somewhat verbose, the words of King Solomon strike more of a chord with me the older I get.

The positive words that a man speaks fill his stomach;

he will be satisfied with what his lips produce.

The power of the tongue is life and death

— those who love to talk will eat what it produces.

- Proverbs 18 verses 20 & 21



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Written by
Tim McGuire
With over two decades of experience in real estate, Tim has a track record of impressive sales, accolades, and recognition. He...