Set the Tone

In the halls of the Mays School of Business at Texas A&M University, there were two distinctly different types of conversations that both began with the same question. Aggie #1 - "Hey, how's it going?" Aggie #2 - "Oh man, it has been one of those weeks. I have three tests and a presentation due by the end of the week. I stayed up until 3am last night studying, hence why I look like crap." Aggie #1 - "Oh wow. That is pretty bad. I know what you mean though, I have 4 tests and 2 presentations and a paper due by the end of the week. I stayed up until 4am and woke up at 7am and had to work. Oh, and my grandma is sick."


Aggie #1 - "Hey, how's it going?" Aggie #2 - "Oh man, it has been one of those weeks. I am pumped about the game this weekend and we had a great turnout last night at XYZ Organization. Also, a friend of mine just got a great internship and I found out I made it to the next round of interviews with two different companies." Aggie #1 - "Oh wow. That is great! I have a couple friends that are in the middle of interviews as well and they are pretty excited about this next summer. Did I tell you about the trip that my roommates and I are taking for spring break?"

It is all about setting the tone for the conversation. The positive or negative tone that is taken by the first to speak is then reciprocated by the second. Both of the conversations above could have been had by the same two people, but when choosing to focus on the positive instead of the negative, the latter conversation is much more enjoyable. The same is true right now in the economy and in the marketplace. There are a lot of things to whine and moan and complain about right now. All of us could reel off a laundry list of things that are going less than great in our world and the world around us. There are countless reasons to be frustrated with the state of our world, but at the same time, we all have an amazing amount of things to be thankful for as well. In my conversations with my coworkers, the mirroring effect is just as true as it was in the halls of business school. If we start the conversation talking about all the reasons why it is a bad time to be in the private jet business and how tough the market is right now, then there could be a whole conversation about why we haven't made a sale in the past two weeks. Or, if the conversation starts with an optimistic tone, there can be a sense of opportunistic camaraderie formed and new perspectives and strategies can be shared. No one wants to work with anyone who operates with a defeatist mentality. There are enough slackers and losers out there already that we don't need a new batch of victims joining them because of a downturn in the economic cycle. It is tough out there, don't get me wrong. But there is also a tremendous amount of opportunity for those with the mindset and the perspective to find it.