1 International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, ; Early Online: 0 0 The primacy of positivity: Practical applications for speech-language pathologists * TIMOTHY SHARP,, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia, and The Happiness Institute, Sydney, Australia Abstract Healthcare professionals, including speech-language pathologists, generally assume that their clients will be happy after they have gotten better or somehow achieved their goals; which is not an unreasonable assumption, and which is a belief shared by the majority of clients. It may not, however, be entirely helpful. Such an approach may well contribute to a range of problems including negative, self-defeating emotions such as frustration which could impede treatment progress. Rather than waiting until success is achieved, happiness and positivity should come first and foremost. By promoting the primacy of positivity speech-language pathologists can help their clients better achieve their goals, leveraging off the energy and motivation created. Keywords: Speech-language pathologist, positivity, positive psychology, happiness, psychosocial, treatment, therapy, intervention, professional issues. The primacy of positivity Many would understand happiness, in its simplest form, as one of a number of positive emotions. However, the term happiness, when used by positive psychologists, is considered much more than this. Seligman (0, ), for example, suggests that happiness includes (among other things) good quality relationships, engagement, meaning, and accomplishment. Fredrickson (0) felt happiness was a term too vague to define, and so decided to not include it in her list of top positive emotions. Positive psychology is the study of happiness and/ or positive emotions, but focuses on methods to understand and foster optimal human functioning, thriving, and flourishing (e.g., Keyes & Haidt, 0; Snyder & Lopez, 0). Some have expressed concerns that the new science of positive psychology will be mistaken for some sort of ambiguous or unhelpfully populist happy-ology (e.g., Peterson & Park, ). However, others believe it is important not to ignore or to under-estimate the potentially powerful and constructive role that happiness and positive emotions might play in a range of contexts, including health interventions, such as speech-language pathology. Whether explicit or implicit, overtly acknowledged or subtly implied, all therapists (including speech-language pathologists) assume that if their client ' s communication or swallowing impairment is addressed, their clients will, then, be happy (or happier). Understanding the meaning of happiness, therefore, is vitally important, and so too is gaining an understanding of the implications of happiness. It is argued in this paper that the utilization of the primacy of positivity (an approach that puts the generation of real and meaningful happiness first and foremost), via happiness and other positive emotions, may enhance the ease with which we achieve success and productivity in our lives, and the ease with which speech-language pathologists can help their clients achieve their goals and progress effectively. The tyranny of when Most clients working with speech-language pathologists (and other health professionals) are trying, in some way or other, to achieve success and to find happiness. Happiness might be a primary goal, but it might also be a secondary goal, or not even an overtly stated goal at all. Regardless, the appropriate use of happiness and positive emotions will be beneficial for all of these clients, as they will Correspondence: Timothy Sharp, The Happiness Institute, Suite, Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW 00, Australia. Tel: 0. thehappinessinstitute.com * Invited keynote address to the Speech Pathology Australia National Conference, Darwin, Australia, June. ISSN - print/issn - online The Speech Pathology Association of Australia Limited Published by Informa UK, Ltd. DOI:./
2 0 0 0 T. Sharp encounter challenges to the achievement of their goals that the author has come to call the tyranny of when. The tyranny of when is the phenomenon of expected/anticipated happiness, associated with imagined and seemingly desirable, but currently unreached goals. Within the specific context of speech-language pathology, the tyranny of when phenomenon might be experienced by clients who believe: I ' ll be happy when I can speak fluently, can communicate with my family, or when I can drink a cup of tea. These less than ideal definitions of happiness parallel popular Western ideas of success that are based in the thought of: if you work hard you ' ll achieve your goals, and if you achieve your goals you ' ll then be happy. Quinn and Quinn (0) argue that this is not always true. They suggest it depends more on the nature of a person ' s goals and, specifically, on whether those goals are congruent with values, purposeful, freely chosen, and, importantly, uplifting. So, once more, goals are by no means implicitly bad, but they can be problematic if they include negative and unhelpful expectations or beliefs (Quinn & Quinn, 0). Sheldon and Houser-Marko (0) suggested that appropriate goal-setting is one of the strategies that can lead to happiness and satisfaction; positive outcomes that can be achieved through developing goals that match a client ' s implicit interests and that are congruent with the individuals core values. The problem for many people, however, is that they never get there. If they do reach this satisfaction, oftentimes they think of something else that they need before they can feel happy (thus, the ultimate tyranny of when ). In recent years, positive psychologists have come to refer to this as the hedonic treadmill, a metaphor in which an individual is constantly running, but never reaching a destination. In other words, happiness is thought to be fleeting and influenced positively and negatively by events, but people will inevitably revert back to neutral (Diener, Lucas, & Scollon, 0, p. 0). As a result, individuals do not experience the level of joy or satisfaction desired. Providing another perspective, Wilson and Gilbert (0) investigated affective forecasting, and found that people ' s ability to predict how they ' ll feel and cope in the future is relatively poor. People tend to over-estimate, for example, how difficult it will be to achieve a goal as part of an intervention and, in turn, will be disrupted or possibly demoralized and demotivated by the experience of negative emotions early in the process. If this over-estimation of the difficulty of goals is not addressed, their attempts to make positive change will possibly decrease. In this paper, a different approach to intervention is proposed which aims to help more people (including speech-language pathologists and their clients) find happiness and success. This approach challenges the tradition of solely and primarily working towards goals in order to experience happiness and, instead, argues that achievement and success are far more likely to be experienced if happiness and positivity are created first. Thus, even if happiness is not an explicit goal, it should still be seen as a highly useful means to a desired end. The power of then Until relatively recently, psychology and psychological researchers have traditionally (and almost exclu- sively) focused on negative emotions. As a result, much is known about how these emotions impact our behaviour and overall mental state. In short, when we experience negative emotions (such as fear or anxiety) we tend to withdraw and, thus, not cope well (Frijda, Kuipers, & Schure, ). In contrast, positive emotions lead to improved 0 performance, and more effective coping and resilience, via the broadening of cognitive processes and increased capacity to build on previous experiences (e.g., Fredrickson & Losada, 0). Specifically, Fredrickson and Losada (0) confirmed their prediction that a ratio of positive-to-negative affect at or above. would characterize individuals in flourishing mental health and they did this via an extension of Losada ' s () non-linear dynamics model of team performance. In practical terms, this 0 means that those experiencing positive emotions (including, potentially, clients receiving intervention with speech-language pathologists) are more open minded, more innovative and creative, and more able to generate solutions. In addition, they ' re better able to effectively draw on and utilize lessons from similar situations and/or problems. A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies aimed at testing the happiness success link supports this perspective, finding success makes people happy, but also positive affect engenders success (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 0). Utilizing three classes of evidence, cross-sectional, lon- gitudinal, and experimental, the authors ultimately concluded that happiness is associated with and precedes numerous successful outcomes, as well as behaviours parallelling success. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that positive affect (one of the hallmarks of well-being) may well be the cause of many of 0 the desirable characteristics, resources, and successes correlated with happiness (Lyubomirsky et al., 0, p. 0). Although Lyubomirsky et al. were not specifically referring to a speech-language pathology or therapy context, their conclusions are still relevant for speechlanguage pathologists. The range and breadth of outcomes found to be associated with positive affect are impressive (e.g., health, positive relationships,
3 Positive psychology and speech-language pathology 0 0 innovation and creativity, to name but a few), and suggest that the appropriate creation of positive affect within contexts such as therapy will enhance therapy specific performance (e.g., engagement with in-session activities and adherence to betweensession homework assignments) and, therefore, improve outcomes for clients. These research findings indicate that positive emotions help us enjoy the good times, but they also help us cope with challenges and persevere to achieve meaningful goals. Further, it appears that the frequency of positive emotions is a more important contributor to success than the intensity (Lyubomirsky et al., 0). As a result, positive emotions are not simply a phenomenon we should enjoy after we have achieved something of significance, but they are also tools we can use to increase our chances of achieving significant outcomes. That is, rather than succumbing to the tyranny of when, we can utilize the power of then, creating happiness and positivity first, in order to increase the chances of achieving desirable goals. Consequently, the benefits of positive emotions can be experienced before, during, and after success, rather than (as we often imagine) just after. Specific implications for speech-language pathology So what does this mean for intervention and, specifically, for speech-language pathologists? The process of intervention, and the task of helping others achieve real change and meaningful goals, could be enhanced via application of clinical tools derived from and based on this concept of the primacy of positivity. According to Kemp (0), coaching (or intervention) involves a collaborative working alliance in which the coach and coachee (speech-language pathologist and client) set mutually defined goals and devise specific steps which lead to goal attainment. Grant, Curtayne, & Burton (0) notes that, regardless of theoretical orientation, coaching includes principles such as accountability, awareness raising, responsibility, commitment, planning, and action. If these are the ultimate goals of coaching (and also of intervention) it is reasonable to ask whether goal attainment would be easier if the client was helped to experience some appropriate form of happiness or positive emotion. This would increase motivation and innovation which stimulates creativity and problemsolving and drives more helpful and constructive behaviours. As previously noted, research related to Fredrickson ' s broaden and build theory clearly suggests that positive emotions enhance creativity, innovation, and problem-solving (Fredrickson, 0; Fredrickson & Branigan, 0), as well as improving team-work, collaboration, and relationships (e.g., Quinn, 0; Waugh & Fredrickson, 0). For speech-language pathologists, it might be useful to find ways to boost positive emotions and to create positive experiences first and foremost for their clients, rather than focusing on the need to achieve and to succeed before experiencing happiness (which could be communicated to clients via overtly verbal but also via more subtle, non-verbal means). It is hypothesized that such an approach will subsequently assist them to engage in constructive and helpful behaviours that will ultimately lead them towards real success (however defined). Future research is needed to explore the efficacy of specific positivity boosting strategies in speechlanguage pathology practice; however, strategies have been found to be effective in other contexts. For instance, Gostick and Christopher (0) and Avolio, Howell, and Sosik () have put forward strong arguments for the appropriate use of levity (defined as the productive use of fun and humour) in an organizational context. They cite a range of studies linking positive work environments to levels of engagement, reduced turnover, enhanced productivity, and company profitability. Similarly, Buckingham and Clifton (0) and Peterson (0) argue that helping employees identify and utilize their strengths (an inherently positive exercise) is associated with lower turnover, more productivity, and higher customer satisfaction scores. Such approaches are not just relevant or applicable for clients. Therapists, including speech-language pathologists, could also benefit from implementing the very same principles, using positivity to become more creative and innovative in their endeavours, to perform other aspects of their job more enthusiastically and, ultimately, more effectively. If, for example, one reviews the Strategic Plan developed by Speech Pathology Australia, one will find the following areas identified as being key to future growth: Striving to be a valued and respected member of the multidisciplinary team; Coping with our growing scope of practice; Becoming a strong, informed membership body that values and actively engages in Association activities; Keeping up with professional developments; and Having a voice with key decision-makers. Taking these in turn, it ' s argued that positive psychology and the primacy of positivity will directly contribute towards these goals in the following ways: Real and meaningful positive emotion will boost self-esteem and self-respect; Relevant positivity boosts resilience and enhances coping abilities; Positive psychology directly encourages and is built upon connectedness and positive relationships; Happiness and positive emotion enhance learning; and Positivity also increases confidence and assertiveness
4 0 0 T. Sharp Examples of how speech-language pathologists can create and enhance positivity within interventions are listed below. Through enhancing positivity, the aim is to increase professional satisfaction and motivation, as well as client achievement: For speech-language pathologists: Actively and explicitly focus on positive experiences within the client ' s life, present and past (see the work on savouring by, for example, Bryant & Veroff, 0); Quickly work towards helping the client identify his or her strengths (using tools such as the VIA Survey). Specifically look for expressions of these strengths in past experiences and discuss how best to utilize these in future situations; Build a positive therapeutic relationship by finding common areas of interest or leisure activities; Have fun and use humour appropriately (therapy is far too important to take too seriously!); Consider how you can help your client achieve better quality-of-life by looking beyond the presenting problem; Provide plenty of positive reinforcement each time your client achieves something of significance, regardless of the size, or even when positive experiences from the past are recalled or mentioned; Cultivate hope and optimism at every opportunity by reminding the client of previous successes and achievements and by appropriately noting how these experiences can be used to build more positivity in the future; Encourage the doing of good deeds to and for others (e.g., Post & Neimark, 0); and Provide instruction in evidence-based mindfulness and meditation methods (e.g., Fredrickson, Cohn, Coffey, Pek, & Finkel, 0). As a result, clients will: Feel more motivated and energized as a result of the belief shown in them by their speech-language pathologists and as a result of the focus on what they ' re good at and what they ' re doing well (rather than their problems and limitations); Enjoy the process of therapy more and, accordingly, commit to and adhere more effectively to recommendations and homework assignments; Attend more frequently and with more enthusiasm because it ' s fun to be involved in such a positive approach; and Be more engaged and, hence, collaborate more actively, committing not just to recommendations but also contributing new and possibly helpful ideas and suggestions. In conclusion, the ideas expressed in this paper need to be further tested empirically; but findings from social psychology indicate that those who experience positive emotions also have a positive effect on others via social and emotional contagion. That is, when we 0 feel good we ' re more likely to make others feel good. Speech-language pathologists should feel good about prioritizing their own happiness because, by doing so, they ' ll be increasing their chances of doing a good job for their clients. Declaration of interest: The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the paper. References Avolio, B., Howell, J., & Sosik, J. (). A funny thing happened on the way to the bottom line: Humor as a moderator of leadership style effects. Academy of Management Journal,,. Bryant, F., & Veroff, J. (0). Savoring: A new model of positive experience. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Buckingham, M., & Clifton, D. (0). Now discover your strengths. New York, NY: The Free Press. Diener, E., Lucas, R., & Scollon, C. (0). Beyond the hedonic 0 treadmill: Revising the adaptation theory of well-being. American Psychologist,, 0. Fredrickson, B. (0). 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