In Art Of Coaching Podcast, Podcasts

“Just stay positive!  You’ll figure it out.  Stick with it!  Keep grinding 💪  Don’t forget to practice gratitude. 🙏”

These are just a few of the commonly used phrases we hear from those who pound the positive leadership drum over, and over, and over again.  Though well-intentioned, messages like these perpetuate the myth that a leader should always be positive, putting an immense amount of pressure on people to live up to a heroic ideal.  In the real world, we’re all just human, and embracing that is the key to being a more genuine, authentic, and skillful leader.

 In today’s episode, we:

  • Explain the consequences of forced positivity
  • Discuss the purposes of all 6 primary emotions 
  • Break down how to recognize, manage, and use “negative emotions” to enhance our leadership skills

Referenced Resources:

If this episode struck a nerve and you’d like to dive deeper or you have specific questions, we’d love to interact with you in our online community – Mighty Networks.  This is our answer to the shortcomings of other social media platforms, and allows our team to deliver a steady stream of content that directly addresses your needs!  This is the best-kept secret of our Art Of Coaching offerings and is less than $20 per month! You can cancel for free at any time, so why not give us a chance to provide you with value?  Sign up HERE today!

There is so much more to leadership than just being positive.  Humans are complex and communication is like any skill, it must be understood and practiced.  There is no better place to get the knowledge and application you need than at The Apprenticeship.  If you’d like to trade mantras for impact, nothing packs a punch like experiential learning with a like-minded group of peers.  Words don’t do it justice! Come see us April 20th-21st in Phoenix, AZ

Newsletter: Be the first to access all our live events & latest Free Resources and receive exclusive discounts!

Your opinion and feedback matters to us!  Realistically, it’s the only way we know if the time and effort we put into our podcast each week is worth it!  So If this episode was helpful and you appreciated the topic, please do us a favor and leave us a review on iTunes and share the episode with anyone else you think would benefit from it.  This helps us more than you know, and we can’t thank you enough for your time, effort, and support!  And, as always, if you have any questions or specific topics you’d like to hear about, reach out to us directly at

Referenced Material:

E252: Strategies For Combating The Holiday Blues & Getting Out Of A Rut

Today’s podcast is brought to you by BetterHelp: Listen, life does not come with a user manual. You don’t need me to tell you that. So when it’s not working for you, maybe you feel like you’re in a funk, maybe you’re having a hard time making a decision, maybe you just need somebody to listen to you. It is an asset to be able to reach out to the world’s largest therapy service. Better help has matched 3 million people with Professionally licensed and bedded therapists that are available 100% online, and it’s affordable.  Go to


Brett Bartholomew  0:11  

Hey Brett here, you know, there is nothing more transferable to every profession situation, walk in life, whatever, then skills pertaining to people communication and power dynamics. I mean, that’s just the reality. Being more socially Agile is only going to get more important in the future. AI and anything else is not going to make people irrelevant. What it is going to do is highlight the differentiation between those who have really locked in their people skills, their social agility, their ability to listen well, relate well, communicate, persuade, all those things, and those who are really only reliant on technical skills related to their trade. Research makes it clear, those who are able to be more effective communicators across various contexts, not only earn more, but have higher life and relationship satisfaction. 


And we’d love to be able to provide a way for you to check your blind spots which we all have, by the way, myself included, or just be a part of your overall professional or continuing development. So please go to Check out our one to one mentoring, our live workshops, online courses, route mentoring, digital community, whatever, we have something for every single budget, we have something for every single walk of life. We have served folks from over 30 profession and we would love the opportunity to serve you let us earn your trust. Let us help you get the results you deserve. Go to art of Now


Welcome to the Art of coaching Podcast. I’m Brett Bartholomew. And at a young age poor communication nearly cost me my life. Now, I help others navigate the gray area of social interaction, power dynamics and communication so they can become more adaptable leaders, regardless of their profession, age or situation. This podcast is for everybody who is fascinated with solving people problems. So if you’re in the no nonsense type, who appreciates frank conversations, advice you can put to use immediately, and learning how others navigate the messy realities of leadership. You’re in the right place. I’m glad that you’re joining us. Let’s dive in.


Hey, welcome back to the podcast right quick one here. And this is going to be more of a reminder than anything else. But I hope it’s powerful. I hope it’s impactful. And I hope it reaches some of you at the exact time that it does. Now you’re gonna get a little bit of a sneak peek at some of my next book. And without going into too much detail. My next book is a lot about how to get past many of the leadership lies that we’re told the leadership BS that really doesn’t serve us that keeps us feeling overextended, that keeps us feeling like maybe we’re not good enough or fit to be able to lead in certain circumstances because we don’t live up to this mythical idea. 


If you think about so many of the narratives that are out there of what makes a great leader, what makes a great coach, what makes a great spouse, what makes a great parent, there’s a lot of pressure to live up to the ideal. And there’s a lot of stuff out there about optimization and optimism. And you almost just feel like you have to be all these things to all these people at one time. And even if you know that you don’t intuitively, we all still fall victim to that. So I was writing a chapter about one of the most prevailing myths out there. One of the myths that has been out there for a very long time and at least has been insinuated this idea that a leader and feel free to put any noun that you want there, a leader should always be positive. Now, this isn’t some kind of anti positivity rant. That’s not the point. 


We all know the benefits of positive thinking we all know the benefits of optimism. That’s boring. We you don’t need me to give you a podcast as to why you should have an optimistic side to you and why you do need to be positive. But with what a lot of you have reached out about over the years, many of you I’ve talked about you feel this pressure to almost always be that way and that if you’re not something’s wrong with you. So I said before the idea that leader should exude positivity has been a prevailing narrative for decades. And it perpetuates this heroic ideal that we’re told that we need to strive to, if we want to get the most out of those we lead and enhance our chances of success. 


But that’s just not true. And the research supports that. So I’m going to go into a few points here. So once again, make no mistake, the issue with this myth is not so much that positivity itself or the benefits of this genuine sense of optimism at all, but it’s about this relentless societal push that has led to an inundation of what I would call forced positivity. Some other people have referred to it as toxic positivity, whatever. But for me, it’s force positivity. The idea that this panacea for any and all of our problems, even if you don’t feel positive or optimistic that you should exude it. That you should exude it and that it’s always better if you exude it. I mean, who amongst us hasn’t experienced some kind of hardship, only to be told some version of will just stay positive, and it’ll work itself out, or you’ll figure it out, you always do or stick with it, and good things will happen. Or my personal favorite, and I’m being sarcastic, just keep grinding. And maybe the mother of all platitudes is even no matter how hard it gets, remember to practice gratitude. 


So I’m not suggesting that statements like these aren’t well intentioned. I am saying that more often than not speaking like a fortune teller, a cheerleader, or a cliche laden, motivational guru doesn’t actually help somebody solve their core issue. And I’m also not insinuating that it’s your responsibility to solve their core issue. But I am saying that when you do those kinds of things, when you put pressure on others, or you act like just hey if you think positive, and think about how many people are told this with their kids, and we’ll get into that in a minute. What it really does is it does the opposite. It starts to trivialize people’s frustrations. If somebody is in the muck, and they’re experiencing something bad, and they’re having negative emotions, just telling them to think positive, be positive is trivializing it. It is. 


And it acts like, it connotes that there’s some kind of switch, they can just hit, and it’s all going to be good. Research also shows that it makes them feel as if they need to suppress any negative emotions are experiencing, which we know can lead to more psychological stress and can dampen their future willingness to be even able to express themselves authentically. So you can laugh if you want, when you hear that, Oh, so you’re telling me to tell somebody to buck up and be positive, that’s going to create more emotional stress. Tell them to toughen up. That’s fine if you think that. But look no further than kids are teens. And you’ll recognize the detriments of this. So during the process of working on my next book, I was asked to speak at a local high school. And the issue according to administrators was that there seemed to be an uptick of mental health related issues. And even sadly, suicide. 


So for the first 15 minutes or so I really struggled to get a packed assembly of students to interact whatsoever. And, this hit my ego, this is what I do for a living, right. But these kids were sizing me up. So I eventually switched gears. And I mentioned this, I think I spoke about this once briefly on the podcast, and I also talked about it, in our private community. And I just threw away the rest of my presentation. I said, All right, listen, let’s get to this, you guys are given a lot of advice in your life. What type of advice do you despise the most. And by the way, there’s a subtle hint there. If you want a teenager to speak up, give them an opportunity to criticize something and you’ll have your in. I’m, of course speaking tongue in cheek. But there is some truth there that they like, if you just give them something to be passionate about, they’ll start talking. 


But anyway, a ton of hands shot up as if the crowd started doing the wave at a football game. And the most common answer, in terms of the advice that they despised getting was ‘just be positive’. And so when I probe more deeply, I wanted to plumb the depths as to why they didn’t really appreciate this advice. The answer was really deceivingly simple. And many of you can probably guess this, it made them feel as if something was wrong with them if they weren’t constantly in a good mood. It was as if not being unceasingly sanguine was some kind of sin. If you remember, I don’t know if there’s some of you that are longtime listeners, we did a whole episode on the holiday blues. This idea that during the holidays are times of any celebration, it doesn’t have to be the traditional holidays here in America by any means or anywhere in the world. 


But during holidays or periods where people are expected to be happy, right? They get bombarded with images and narratives or mandates that promote this unattainable standard of happiness. If they don’t feel that way, you me, if we don’t feel that way during that time, then that gap widens since our emotional state doesn’t match up to those expectations. And I record this around the time of my birthday. And I can even talk about that then you know, there’s this pressure. You know, it’s your birthday. This should be a great time of friends and family. Listen, not every birthday is good. Not every birthday is going to be amazing. There’s some days that just a random day ends up being better than your birthday for a variety of reasons, but I’ve been pissed off on my birthday and then I feel, God I’m just an ass. I should be happy I should be this. But that speaks in part to the socially constructed nature of not only emotions, but their interpretation. 


Slowing down for a minute all I mean by that is think of times When you’re expected to be happy. When there’s either internal or external pressure, to be happy for a lot of leaders, this could even be during crisis communications. They’re not supposed to be happy, but they’re supposed to be optimistic. They’re supposed to speak in positive economy. They’re supposed to speak in positive rhetoric to give people a sense of hope. But when our emotions don’t line up, we feel like there’s an issue. 


This show is sponsored by better help. Imagine you are gifted an extra hour in every day. You literally had an extra 60 minutes, nobody else around you, God, how would you use it? Would you spend more time with family read that book that’s been laying around your house for the last few months, but a date night on the calendar or start working on your new business idea? A lot of us spend our lives wishing we had more time. The question is, if you had it, how would you use it? Because the fact is, many people just find more time to waste it. See this is what therapy can give you. 


And why you can’t get that extra hour literally. What you can do is get rid of a lot of that cloudiness, a lot of the overthinking a lot of the anxiety in your head, that leaves you wasting that time that you could have leveraged and put to use somewhere else. And therapy can help with that. So if you’re thinking of starting therapy, give Better Help a try. It’s entirely online. It’s designed to be convenient, flexible and suited entirely to your schedule. All you have to do is fill out a brief questionnaire to get matched with a licensed therapist. And you can switch therapists at anytime for no additional charge. Learn how to make more time for yourself more time for what makes you happy with Better Help. Visit today, to get 10% off your first month. That’s


For a lot of leaders, this could even be during crisis communications. They’re not supposed to be happy, but they’re supposed to be optimistic. They’re supposed to speak in positive rhetoric to give people a sense of hope. But when our emotions don’t line up, we feel like there’s an issue. So the thing I want you to remember, remind yourself love. And to remind others, our emotions are a deeply, deeply personal experience. And for better or worse, we’ve learned to create meaning and form narratives about our own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, by the way, on the basis of schemas that tell us what is best or what it’s acceptable, which is why you hear this, leaders should always be positive or optimistic, all those things. 


But keep in mind also that what is acceptable or best varies across cultures and contexts. And you know that. I mean, there are cultures where people don’t want an optimistic, cheerful, exuberant leader, they want somebody that’s more calm, patient pragmatic, measured. There was research, especially looked at during the pandemic, or 911. What did we expect from our leaders there, and we saw a better public, we saw better outcomes in terms of message delivery, message tailoring. When people felt like they were being talked to in a very real or genuine way. When they felt like there’s this acknowledgment of the reality of things as opposed to just this deceptive naivete. So people feel more pressure than ever to be happy, we get anxious if those around us don’t seem happy. The technology we use is designed to create a de luz of dopamine. And in every workplace, I’d encourage you to think about yours. There are what are called Emotional display rules that exist, where there’s this mandate of how you should behave. 


And this was something I always used to tell our team, internal or extended. I’d say, hey, the most important thing here at our coaching is that you’re real. I understand that there’s buzzwords out there. And don’t get mad if this is something that you really like that’s look beyond your emotions here of psychological safety. And we’re all supposed to be cheery and optimistic. And of course, we don’t want Debbie downers. But more importantly, I just want you to be real and pragmatic and problem solvers. And why do, point blank as humans, we experience a wide cascade of emotions. I mean, over time, there have been 1000s of terms used to describe the many affective states we have. Now there are six primary emotions we hear about most often. And those include sadness, surprise, disgust, anger, fear, and even happiness. 


And while you’re not going to be tested on that, what’s worth etching into the deepest parts of your psyche is that each of those bring their own source of wisdom. I’m going to say that again. Every emotion sadness, surprise, distrust, anger, fear, happiness. All of those have benefits. They all serve a purpose. If we allow ourselves to experience them without guilt or remorse or shame. That is how you get emotional intelligence. That is how you grow in terms of emotional maturity. You learn how to better recognize and interpret and manage emotions. And, I want you to think back and sorry for anybody that doesn’t like animated films. But if you haven’t seen the movie Inside Out from Pixar, perhaps no form of media as depicted the importance of embracing our emotional complexity in a more engaging, and definitely a more cathartic way than that. 


And it’s important, if you’re somebody that doesn’t watch movies or you don’t like animated films or whatever you need to remember, these things are created by really skilled writers. These are scripts first and foremost. And this movie was created because the Director Pete Docter had a little girl who was always happy in real life, right? Always happy, enjoyed everything just was the most cheerful little girl ever. And then she turned 11. And she started kind of being a little bit more melancholy and sad. And he found himself asking what happened to my little girl? What happened to the joy that she used to always feel. And so we made a movie about it. In this case, it was about the emotions of a young girl named Riley, who was struggling with a lot of life changes her parents were separating, I think they moved. The once happy and outgoing little girl, as you can imagine, she starts having these experiences or episodes of melancholy withdrawal and just feeling disconnected. 


But what was cool about the film, is they personified her emotions, and in a humanistic form. So there was joy, sadness, fear, disgust, and anger. And they were these little characters that took turns at the control panel of her mind. And the goal was they were all trying to help her find her footing and get happy again. Well, I’ll spare the rest because I don’t want to spoil it. But overall, the emotion known as joy is always trying to overpower the others. And of course, what did she find out? That’s not how it works in life, she eventually learns the truth, which is that if we want to have healthy relationships with ourselves or others, you need to embrace sadness, sometimes. You do. You need to embrace sadness, which is the very emotion in the movie, that joy tries to resist. And it’s also the very emotion that many of us try to resist despite the fact that we know if we sometimes lose our cool or cry or just break down at that we feel better afterwards. 


And so, I hope what you’re taking from this so far is this powerful reminder that leaders, or put whatever noun you want there, first and foremost should be human. And you and other humans are always going to experience a wide range of fluctuating emotions. So rather than vilifying denying or suppressing them, it is far more important we learned, identify and harness them. Now, I promised I was talking about a little bit of research early on. When managed correctly, evidence suggests that the so called negative emotions help us be more thorough when we process information or even persuasive arguments. And thus decrease the likelihood of us being duped or swayed by messages or information that isn’t necessarily truthful. And other research suggests that a negative effect can lead to better judgments and situations are really difficult and complex problems need to be solved. 


And that feeds back into what I just said momentarily, we tend to be better when managed correctly, at kind of just diving deeper, and not just taking things at face value. Think about that. When you’re really happy and everything’s going great kind of take things as they come. It’s great. That sounds awesome. Yeah, we’ll make the most of it. Thanks, Tim. Love it. This is gonna be amazing. When we’re angry or frustrated, or we’re just a little bit left of center there. We started thinking, I don’t know, let me look at this. Is that true? I don’t know that I believe that. And that research also shows that’s why negative affects now remember, these are term this is terminology, negative, experiencing negative emotions. 


If there’s one sound bite, you want to hear from this. Literally, if there’s one sound bite, you want to hear from this experiencing negative emotions does not mean the same thing as having negative thoughts. We can find ourselves feeling angry or remorseful, yet still have the capacity to use those feelings as resources to draw upon for their own wisdom. And that’s why the research shows that when we are in a negative place emotionally, we can still end up being better leaders. Because we’re able to be more genuine with our emotional expression, especially during hard times. We tend to think more critically, we’re more skeptical, and thus we can end up being better at leading during crisis during that time. And if you look into the history of JFK, if you look into Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, you will see all of these people experienced their own forms of internal darkness at these times and they all were also leaders during tremendously chaotic stressful points in human it History, right? 


So you need to understand that what I want you to think about is, when you feel angry or frustrated or sad or whatever, like, how can you leverage that? How can you leverage that to serve as the catalyst for the creation of something that is impactful? And better yet, let’s say you’re still a skeptic, just for the sake of discussion. And that’s fine. I don’t profit from you believing this. But I just want you to ask, Why are certain songs and movies, novels and pieces of artwork? Why are those created? Oftentimes, when an artist is feeling something, right, whether they’re feeling down, or it was a breakup, or it was a loss, those types of artwork, if you want to call it that, or creative outputs inspire us the way they do, not because they have feel good lyrics or happy endings, or an abundance of characters. But because they’re real, and that realness is emotional contagion. It serves as a mirror to our own experiences, internal and external. That’s, why and I even think, I’m somebody with a short temper. 


When I get angry, a lot of times I get really focused, I do. And I just want you to think about that. Nobody’s trying to say if you’re an optimistic person, and you’re cheerful, that you’re bad, just like we shouldn’t be saying people that aren’t always optimistic and cheerful are bad. This black and white thinking doesn’t serve us. It’s think about the emotions you experience. Think about how every culture from every corner of the world uses song and stories, usually ones that that talk about trials and hardship and overcoming as a cornerstone of some aspect of their broader identity. It’s our hardships, it’s the things that we go through that are tough. It’s the doubts and an internal struggles that we have that unite us. And that sense of hardship, and that shared suffering, is what brings that sense of community. 


So without getting too far down a rabbit hole here, no, you do not always have to be positive to be a leader You’re not always gonna feel happy, a beat and that is perfectly fine. Nothing is wrong with you. You do need to have the ability to recognize, interpret, speak to and appropriately leverage your emotions in a way that’s contextually appropriate. You also need to remember that everybody you lead has diverse preferences, and is going to respond to a wide variety of approaches. I certainly never wanted a leader or teacher that was just cheerful, optimistic, and a cheerleader all the time. I certainly wanted somebody that could say, Hey, this is great, or that looks good or great job with this when it was honest. But I don’t want you to lie to me. 


At the same time, Yeah, we don’t want to be that’s hard on us all the time. But this idea that we have to always be positive. And then the feelings that people get from that, something’s wrong with me or I’m not fit to lead or something’s wrong with my headspace. No, it’s not. Like there’s somebody that can relate to you. There’s somebody that needs to hear what you need to say, there’s somebody, so on and so forth. Those things are what make us human. So the next time a friend reaches out to you and says, Sorry, I’m just kind of in a down mood, or I don’t know what’s wrong with me, or I feel like something’s off. remind them, hey, one, you’re not always supposed to feel awesome. Two the more important thing is that you think about what you’re feeling right now. And ask yourself why. And then you think about how you can leverage it. And they still might feel like, well, I don’t know, I don’t like leverage it. What do you mean? It’s like, well write it down. Think about it, record yourself, like, what advice would you give to a friend that’s going through this, there’s so much gold, and there’s so much wisdom and all of our emotions and all of our feelings, and all of our thoughts, quit doubting it, quit running from it could feel like something’s wrong and start putting it to use. 


I hope this episode helped in some way, send it to a friend that might be experiencing some darker moments. Or cue this up when you’re feeling down. I hope that you understand the main points here. All of this is natural. All of this makes you a fit to lead in many circumstances. All this makes you human. And you are not alone in any of this. Sometimes we benefit from leaning into that darkness. Sometimes we benefit from being that darker shade of gray. You just gotta identify when and how it’s going to work for you. 


All right, until next time, for myself and the rest of the team at art of coaching. Please leave a review. If you liked this stuff, make sure to check out our newsletter We have a lot of live events, you can always check out what we’re doing at And more importantly, you can just reach out to us at Talk to you soon

Did you enjoy the show?

Your support ensures the best quality guests and listening experience.

Leave a Comment