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Positive Explanatory Style


Updated February 22, 2012

Positive Explanatory Style

Optimists look on the bright side--in very specific ways.

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Definition: Optimists have a positive explanatory style, or positive way of explaining events in their lives. Optimists explain positive events as having happened because of them (internal). They also see them as evidence that more positive things will happen in the future (stable), and in other areas of their lives (global). Conversely, they see negative events as not being their fault (external). They also see them as being flukes (isolated) that have nothing to do with other areas of their lives or future events (local). For example, if an optimist gets a promotion, she will likely believe it’s because she’s good at her job (internal), and will receive more benefits and promotion in the future (global and stable). If she’s passed over for the promotion, it’s likely because she was having an off-month (local and unstable) because of extenuating circumstances (external), but will do better in the future.

Conversely, a pessimist would magnify the negative and minimize the positive. These differences translate to differences in health, life success, and stress in optimists and pessimists. (Learn more about the benefits of optimists for a more complete list.)

Because explanatory style, and not merely a chipper attitude, is what distinguishes an optimist from a pessimist, it's not always easy to know where you lie on the continuum. The Optimism Quiz can provide you with a clearer picture of what type of explanatory style you have, and can provide you with action steps to become more of an optimist.

This site contains a massive amount of stress information. See these resources on stress management for a variety of options for stress relief.

Also Known As: Positive Attributional Style

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