The Arrogance of Joy

Positive words lead to positive mindsets.


I was listening to an interview on NPR recently with a former White House staffer. I, sadly, don’t even remember his name. But he taught me a valuable lesson:

People who answer questions in a foreign language are more positive (and succinct) than when they answer in their native language.

“How was your day?” asks the camarero (waiter) as he serves the evening meal.

“Good, thank you,” you say in reply.

But if an American asks you the same question, you are more likely to reply with something like:

“I can’t complain.”

“Pretty good overall.”

“Not bad.”

You qualify the quality of your day, because to have a “good” day seems almost mythical or perhaps arrogant.

What if you just kept it at “good,” as you would when answering in a foreign language?

The reason you are more succinct and more positive while speaking in a foreign language is simple: you know fewer words. You also are less familiar with the complexities of the language.

The Worst-Case Scenario

Worst-case scenarios are a waste of time and energy.

Words are powerful. Forget the worst-case scenario.

Can you even imagine the following conversation?

Husband: We should take a vacation.

Wife: Yes we should. Let’s go to Hawaii.

Husband: That sounds great. Worst-case scenario is that we die in a plane crash on the way there.

Or this one…