Richard Boyatzis, a psychologist at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve, explored these contrasting effects in coaching, the Huffington Post reported.
Boyatzis and his team interviewed some college students and scanned their brains.
For some of the respondents, the interview focused on positives like that question about what they'd love to be doing in ten years, and what they hoped to gain from their college years. The brain scans revealed that during the positively focused interviews there was greater activity in the brain's reward circuitry and areas for good feeling and happy memories.
Meanwhile, for others the focus was more negative like asking them about how demanding they found their schedule and their assignments, difficulties making friends and fears about their performance. As the students wrestled with the more negative questions their brain activated areas generated anxiety, mental conflict and sadness.
Boyatzis argued that a focus on our strengths urges us toward a desired future, and stimulates openness to new ideas, people, and plans. While, in contrast, spotlighting our weaknesses elicits a defensive sense of obligation and guilt, closing us down to.
The study is an excerpt from Daniel Goleman's new book, 'Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence'.