As a proponent of positive psychology, I opt to not draw attention to the mistakes that users make on LinkedIn. Rather, I prefer to reinforce good habits and behaviors that lead to business wins. By letting my clients and students know that they are on the right track, and keeping them in alignment with their vision, they will be more motivated and raise their level of performance. Doom-and-gloom thinking will not drive results on LinkedIn. An optimistic outlook and feelgood attitude can open doors and move mountains.
There are many folks that claim to be social media influencers, thought leaders, or subject matter experts, and install themselves in the vanguard. Their blogs on LinkedIn best practices are negative, one reprimand after another for all the mistakes we make and the blind spots we fail to check. Some of these pieces are so condescending and condemnatory in tone that I cannot imagine how anyone could feel good about their chances after reading them.
I have discovered that social media does not come naturally for most people. Having embraced the leadership challenge of helping others navigate and negotiate LinkedIn, I find that my clients, students, and audiences respond more favorably to positive energy. Making sense of LinkedIn can be an arduous process. Learning curves can be painstakingly difficult to shorten. The purpose of the work is to empower them with wisdom, not chide them for poor judgment.
Positive Psychology and Social Networking
Positive psychology is an outgrowth of humanistic or mainstream psychology, and a growing field with numerous applications in social business. It is not just about thinking happy thoughts and plastering a smile on your face. Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and director of the school’s Positive Psychology Center, is the founding father of the field, having authored more than 250 scholarly publications and about 20 books.
Seligman has made enduring contributions to the study of positive psychology, resilience, well-being, learned helplessness, depression, optimism and pessimism. He is also a world-renowned expert on the subject of effective intervention as an alternative for treatment of depression. Seligman and others are at the forefront of advancing positive psychology as a viable treatment option for psychological disorders. Seligman himself has defined positive psychology as the “scientific study of optimal human functioning [that] aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive.”
According to Positive Psychology (PP) UK, research by into positive psychology has led to the isolation of three distinct subfields:
1). The Study of Positive Experiences (living with joy, owning a sense of well-being, euphoria, satisfaction, contentment, optimism, and flow)
2). The Study of Human Strength and Virtue (living a good life, the traits and qualities of a good person, future-mindedness, courage, perseverance, forgiveness, originality, wisdom, interpersonal skills, giftedness, and capacity for love)
3). The Study of Social Responsibilities (behaviors that foster the development of good citizenship within groups or communities, civic virtues, nurturance, altruism, civility, tolerance, and work ethics)
On LinkedIn, the application of positive psychology might be nothing more than the daily affirmation that you are doing things right. You feel that you have a profile that speaks to your core competencies, brands you as the logical choice for the business you seek, and inspires trust. You are secure in the knowledge that you are being taken on face value, and perceived as eminently capable by those within and external to your professional network. All this helps you tell your story better in the real world.
In social networking, negativity breeds discontent. Bloggers who go to extremes to point out all the mistakes that people make are not exactly lighting any fires underneath their readers. They dwell on failure, neglect key areas of relationship development, and do not create value. They exert a sense of false exaltation, cop a wiser-than-thou persona, and assert themselves as the expert. Their blogs do not energize, foster a sense of well-being, or inspire readers to higher levels of performance.
Preconditioning the Mind for LinkedIn Success
Readiness is an essential element of the LinkedIn success mindset. People must be primed for a specific purpose and take the necessary steps to prepare for a future series of events. Positivity is the antecedent. Positive thinkers will be more receptive to adapting to changing circumstances and more effective in handling their day-to-day LinkedIn interactions.
I subscribe to notion that optimism works. Always have, always will. My platform is one that raises spirits, leverages the power of suggestion, fosters individual thought, and promotes good self-governance. On LinkedIn, positive emotions carry the day. A can-do rather than a can’t-do attitude is what catalyzes people to engage, nets results, and transforms lives.
My work as a social branding strategist is geared toward helping businesspeople embrace their uniqueness and express themselves online with confidence. To that end, I interview my clients to find the most appropriate narrative for their “brand story.” I integrate their past accomplishments with a present-day value proposition to gauge their future benefit. Every aspect of this work is carried out with a positive outlook and an opportunity mindset.
In their LinkedIn profiles, my subjects are rendered as the virtuous professionals they are, agents of positive change for those they serve. In the real world, they take psychological ownership of the story we co-create, tell it with greater conviction, and deliver on their promises.
Combating Social Business Paralysis
There are scores of professionals who would like nothing better than to gain a baseline understanding of how LinkedIn can help them grow their businesses. Every day, they take to the Internet in the hope of accumulating knowledge, but are besieged with content that confuses or berates them. This causes stress, which leads to self-defeating behaviors that impede progress. Eventually, these people slow to a standstill.
Since the day I hung up my shingle as a LinkedIn consultant and coach, I have only used words of encouragement and enablement in activating others. I give my clients room to roam and permission to fail. When granted autonomy, people will become proactive, not reactive. They will begin to move in the direction of their goals, recognize opportunities, and develop new competencies.
Things do not always go right on LinkedIn. You can hit a wall or fall into a crevasse when you least expect it. The vagaries of social networking can occasionally disrupt real world business flow. You may see some things that zap your motivation and insult your sensibilities. The key is to eliminate negative emotions, avoid the booby traps, and systematically work toward value creation. I have learned to block out such distractions and operate from a position of strength and virtue on the site, a mindset that invariably produces positive experiences.
♦ I believe that most professionals want to achieve on LinkedIn. Once they understand that they control their own destinies on the site, they will be more inclined to do the work. They will embrace a philosophy of continuous improvement and open their minds to new ways of doing things.
♦ Positive attitude is an essential component of competitive advantage on LinkedIn. When you are upbeat, you are more receptive, responsive, and intuitive. On the flip side, you will be better received by others when you think and act positively. Optimism creates opportunities and improves performance on LinkedIn.
♦ Never underestimate the power of hope.
Since 2006, JD Gershbein, CEO of Owlish Communications, has helped advance the collective awareness of LinkedIn and inspired opportunity-oriented professionals in all walks of business to step up and achieve on the site. His ability to spark others to action has earned him the moniker of “The LinkedIn Catalyst.” JD is considered one of the world’s top thought leaders on LinkedIn, and a pioneer in the design and delivery of LinkedIn education. He is also a globally acclaimed social business psychologist, keynote speaker, and frequent broadcast media expert on LinkedIn for business. Additionally, JD is adjunct professor of marketing communications at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart School of Business, where he is advancing social media marketing as an academic discipline. In addition to his blog, The Wisdom Zone, JD is a contributing writer for The Huffington Post and Forbes.