“If you want to be happy, be,” Leo Tolstoy once said. But, if you want to be more effective at work–to make fewer mistakes, better decisions and be a sharper communicator–then by all means, be miserable.
Joe Forgas, a professor at Australia’s University of New South Wales, recently told Australia Science magazine that, based on his research, a grumpy person can cope with more demanding situations than a happy one because of the way the brain “promotes information processing strategies.”
Forgas conducted a study of a group of volunteers and found that the ones asked to dwell on negative things in their lives and watch sad movies subsequently outperformed others in the group who were asked to focus on positive things and watch happier movies. “Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, cooperation and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world.”
“A mildly negative mood may actually promote a more concrete, accommodative and ultimately more successful communication style,” said Forgas.
Well, there you have it: If you’re feeling a bit unproductive or downright useless, simply turn on coverage of the BP oil spill or think about our exploding national debt and then watch your productivity go up, up and up. The scowl on your face and the furrow in your brow will inspire awe among your colleagues about what a productive, clear-thinking, precise communicator you surely are. Or maybe they’ll just think you were rooting for France to win the World Cup.