Unconditional Positive Regard: What It Is and the Surprising Benefits
You’re really lifting your own spirit.
You may already know that having a positive outlook can affect your life for the better. The power of positive thinking (also known as manifestation) is another popular method for bringing more bliss into your everyday.
Less discussed, however, is the huge impact that unconditional positive regard can have on both your mental state and your capacity for joy. While the term has been used in the psychology world for decades, this mindset can also be applied to everyday life—with major benefits.
Here’s the lowdown on unconditional positive regard, why it can change your life for the better and how to start practicing it today.
Defining Unconditional Positive Regard
Unconditional positive regard is simply accepting others unconditionally, no matter what. The term unconditional positive regard is credited to Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist who was rather radical in his day. Rogers started a therapy revolution by validating his clients’ feelings and offering a supportive atmosphere that was built on a foundation of human connection. He believed that having compassion and acceptance toward others was the key to helping them, not shaming or punishing people for their thoughts and actions.
Rogers approached therapy with unconditional positive regard toward his clients, meaning that he showed them unconditional acceptance and warmth, believing that empathy could be a catalyst for change.
Unconditional positive regard means that personal opinions should be set aside in order to connect with someone and that, no matter what, everyone has value. This practice differs from unconditional love: The latter assumes feelings of affection while the former doesn’t. You don’t need to like someone to act toward them with unconditional positive regard. You just need to believe that they are worthy of acceptance and respect.
Benefits of Practicing Unconditional Positive Regard
Just like there are a number of benefits of thinking positive thoughts, there are many upsides to practicing unconditional positive regard. This practice can be applied to any person or any relationship at any time.
Here are five of the main benefits of unconditional positive regard that you’ll start to see once you begin this practice:
Unconditional positive regard strengthens connections with other people
More than anything, approaching people with unconditional positive regard builds connection. When you see others as humans—flawed yet perfect at the same time—you’re more able to identify with them, feel empathy toward them and create bonds that may not have formed otherwise. As you begin approaching everyone you meet with acceptance and respect, you open your heart and make possible more chances for connection. This practice enables you to become a person that others want to be around because as you see the value in people, they feel that energy emanating from you.
Unconditional positive regard makes you less negative and judgemental
As you move through the world seeing others as worthy of acceptance and respect, you start to tear down the walls of negativity and judgment. Unconditional positive regard allows you to see the best in people, not the worst. It keeps you from jumping to conclusions and fixating on other’s flaws. Even if you don’t particularly get along with someone, or even like them, having respect for them on a human level keeps your relationship neutral instead of negative. This concept can also apply to those who have hurt you, encouraging forgiveness instead of holding onto a grudge.
Unconditional positive regard fosters more authentic romantic relationships
In love relationships, unconditional positive regards promotes a union of respect and trust, even when you’re in conflict or needing to set boundaries. You and your partner can be attuned to each other’s needs, yet also aware of your own individual needs and limits. With unconditional positive regard, issues are discussed respectfully and openly, without judgment, passive-aggressive comments or needing to feel like you have the upper hand. This practice helps you create connection and build love on a foundation of mutual respect and admiration.
Unconditional positive regard creates better teams
In the workplace, unconditional positive regard can shift your office culture for the better. A study about unconditional positive regard in the workplace shows that people who were treated with unconditional positive regard by their coworkers felt valued, and this in turn boosted their job satisfaction and motivation. By cultivating morale, unconditional positive regard can create a more inclusive, happier place to work. This not only makes your day to day work life better overall, it can also strengthen your office relationships and even lead to better outcomes in your career as well.
Unconditional positive regard helps build self-compassion
When you treat other people with acceptance and empathy, you will soon find that you can apply this practice to yourself. In this way, unconditional positive regard can help you lead a more authentic life. Instead of apologizing for who you are or living small, you can use unconditional positive regard to boost your own confidence as you realize that you too are worthy of living your dreams, not to mention respect and compassion. As your self worth grows, you will grow into the best possible version of yourself, attracting the ideal opportunities, relationships and experiences along the way.
How to Start Incorporating Unconditional Positive Regard Into Your Life
Living with unconditional positive regard sounds great—but how exactly do you do it? Like any practice, it’s something that you can continually work on. Start small by choosing a day to focus on accepting everyone you encounter. (Yes, even the person who cuts you off in traffic.) Instead of listening to the judgemental soundtrack in your head, refocus your thoughts toward compassion and respect.
Then, you might move on to a daily dedicated meditation practice for harnessing unconditional positive regard. The Buddhist loving kindness prayer is a good place to start if you need a mantra to help you focus your thoughts. It reads: “May all beings everywhere, whether near or far, whether known to me or unknown, be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.” You might say this mantra as written, or adapt it to your needs. Some people enjoy meditating with this mantra while focusing on one person or a group of people in their lives, changing the wording to reflect those relationships.
Once you start on the path of unconditional positive regard, it’s difficult to imagine another way. As you begin to enjoy the benefits of the practice—not to mention a lifted spirit—you’ll see the world and the people around you in a completely different light.