Thinking affects relationships with others, especially those close to you. Do your thoughts also have an effect on your well-being? Where do you focus your energy?

Over the last few months I have noticed a very interesting phenomenon. I have an almost immediate physical reaction when I think something self-critical, or when I have a thought that is critical and negative about someone else or something that is happening. This is especially true when my thoughts are focused on someone I am close to. I receive immediate feedback that it would be better to change my thoughts!

I have begun to notice that when I think positive thoughts about someone, it is easier to get along with them, and I feel better. My body is training me to shift my focus towards the positive.

When I talk to clients who are having difficulty getting along, I usually find that they were thinking critical thoughts about each other before they opened their mouths and began criticizing out loud. Sometimes they stopped themselves from saying their negative perceptions out loud…at least initially. However, during times of high stress or hormonal changes, out came the destructive words.

This all seems simple and logical I suppose–think positive thoughts about each other instead of negative ones. But do we even want to do it? We often behave as if it’s our right, or even our obligation, to correct and point out the flaws in others. How will our spouses or coworkers ever get it right if we don’t instruct them?! Also, backbiting (speaking negatively, in a diminishing way, about someone who is absent) is a destructive way of life in our culture. We often justify our negative thoughts and words with, “But it’s true!”

Truthfulness is a virtue…unless we misuse it and cause harm with it. Truthfulness is a quality that requires many helper qualities so it is applied beneficially. All these qualities are linked to having positive thoughts and expressions of “the truth”: tactfulness, kindness, compassion, acceptance, encouragement, forgiveness, gentleness, humility (to see our own faults!), respect, and unity. Timeliness is also vital to consider. Sometimes our truthful words need to wait for a better time.

When we think negatively about someone, we can’t help but struggle in our interactions with them. Our attitude will slip out in one way or another. If instead we commit our energy to looking for and thinking good things about others, and focus on sharing positive words, we will feel more connected and unified with them. We will give those we love the grace to be themselves, encouraging them in positive directions as needed. Our positive efforts to transform our thoughts will raise others to a higher level as we accompany them on their journey through life.

Books to help with a positive focus: Creating Excellent Relationships: The Power of Character Choices; Pure Gold: Encouraging Character Qualities in Marriage;; Coaching services:

Photo: David Niblack,