Photo Credit: Forbes, Jacquelyn Smith
Who ever aspires to become negative? No one out there wants to be considered a Negative Nancy, or, get this, a Debbie Downer. Sheesh.
The fact that there are names for people who struggle with negativism shows they are not fun to be around, even laughable for some. We stir up little compassion for the person inside of that moniker and what might have gotten them there.
Negativism happens by degree…with time and practice.
Even the Eeyores in our lives, those darksome brooding outsiders, have our sympathy, even affection. We allow that they can’t help their personalities. It’s just how they are. Except for our Eeyore colleagues, friends and family members, we communicate little time or patience for negativism. In fact, we default to our culture’s no-skin-in-the-game of “you’re better off without them around you”.
Well…give yourself time. With enough life experiences and bumps along the journey, you might find yourself becoming that “grumpy old man”. Without even being aware it’s happening.Photo Credit: Pixabay, Peter ZieglerPhoto Credit: Flickr, Paul Waite
You can probably tell I care about this.
Not so long ago, people in my life considered me almost Pollyannaish (determined to be positive about everything that happens; always refusing to think ill of others). I still want to be that person, to be honest. Unfortunately…a few rough hits happened.
Abruptly having to leave a country through circumstances beyond our control. Our home, our friends there. [That story is for another day.] Watching family members go through extreme hard times. Having to leave a church we loved. [Also another story.] Retiring earlier than I wanted. Living day-to-day with this incredible man who has experienced more loss than he imagined or that others really know…squeezed into a few years. I could go on…but then you’d know I’m at risk of becoming a Debbie Downer.
[If you think it’s already happened…I refuse that…because it is not really who I am.]
Our kids have always been taught not to hold court in judging whether something’s fair or not. We did not want to raise a bunch of fairness police. However, we have had numerous round tables over whether something is right or not…and if not, what might our role be in righting a wrong.
The biggest initiator of negativism is figuring out how to respond to something that is just wrong. At home. At work. In our community. In the world.
If you are struggling with negativism, is it because you believe something is just not right?
You could be entirely correct about what is terribly wrong. Unfortunately, if you find you can’t fix what’s broken, then what can be altered are your own relationships, health, and well-being. Either toward the negative…
Photo Credit: Pixabay
…or, hopefully, toward the positive.Photo Credit: Skilled Impact
[For those struggling right now with negativism…or maybe not struggling anymore but just living negative at the moment: remember what it was like before when your life was more like the caped crusader in the above image?]
We can flip our negativity to positive but it takes great effort… especially if we’re so drained from it, we can hardly get out of our own way. Just getting the job done or barely maintaining the relationship. This is understandable given what negativism takes out of a person over time. Photo Credit: Pixabay
[That’s one of the reasons I feel strongly about how others respond to it because they don’t see the toll it takes on the individual experiencing it. Not judging here, because I have been exhausted by someone else’s negativism as well. Just more understanding now… having gone through it and seeing those I love slog through it.]
As this has been weighing on my mind recently, I’ve done a fair amount of reading on the topic. There is no small amount of writing about it. Very helpful pieces are linked below. My takeaways are bulleted with the link below it (take time to read more if you will, because I’ll be leaving a lot of great advice out of the bullet points).
Flipping Negative to Positive:
- Don’t allow yourself to complain unless you also offer one or two possible solutions. Use complaining as a catalyst for positive change.
- Be aware of the external environment, but don’t let it consume you.
- Practice the art of “zoom focusing.” Tune out the negative voices, focus in on your choices, and start getting things done.
- View your life as an inspirational tale, not a horror movie.
- Make a gratitude list and start a success journal.
- Don’t quit at Mile 20.
- Trust in God, not the media (or other naysayers).
It’s because of the way our brains are constructed. Our amygdala and limbic system are built to notice threats, to protect our survival. Today, the same parts of our brain are active even when physical threats are minimal. The threats we deal with today are more cognitive — involving finances, whether we’re loved, whether we’re succeeding at work. They can set our hearts racing. That’s why we can panic on a Sunday night just thinking about work.
Rather than change the way you think, I recommend changing your relationship to your thoughts. Those thoughts that are negative are more likely to capture our awareness, or become “sticky.”
I recommend learning to watch your thoughts, rather than engaging with them. Practicing mindfulness can take you away from the thinking experience.
Mindfulness helps us program in ourselves a sense of that which is right. We can systematically notice what’s going well in the present. We can notice something favorable about each person we encounter. Words of admiration help us notice the rightness of things.
- Value the negative experiences.
- Don’t rush judgment.
- Take complete responsibility for your life.
- A problem can only be resolved if someone brings attention to it but if you don’t plan to be constructive, keep your thoughts to yourself.
- If you, however, would like to be, known as a problem solver instead of a complainer, speak up. If you do it the right way, you will make a positive change that could do a lot to improve your work environment. Rather than raising your boss’s ire, you may instead be the recipient of his or her appreciation.
- It takes a real effort a lot of the time to concentrate on the positive. I know there’s a direct link to positive thoughts and success. I have read about it, studied it, and tried to live it most of my adult life.
[Again, the articles in full have more helpful info…when you have the time or inclination to read further. At the end are two links to HR and supervisors/managers.]
My own small observations (beyond the above excellent points):
- If the workplace itself is fueling negativism, do what you can to shakeup where you work. Try a different venue for day-to-day work. Traveling can be a tremendous help (if you can financially and strategically make it happen – for yourself and others). Working remotely doesn’t fix what’s hard but it dilutes contact and interaction with what’s hard.
- If others have judged you by this current season of life and don’t want to work with you, don’t let that deter you from your purpose. Mend relationships if you can. If not, embrace the “what is” in your life, and celebrate the healthy relationships you have and pursue work you love, wherever you can make a difference.
- Stay in the present moment. The past, distant or recent, is where your negativism was birthed. The future either strikes more fear in your heart or stirs hope (as in a job change or some other imagined change) that you can’t be sure is real. For this moment, stay at task, nurture your current relationships, focus in.
An expression floating around the internet lately goes something like this:
“What you practice, you get very good at.”
As that relates to negativism, do we really want to get good at that? No. In fact, practice doesn’t always make us good at something. We can practice unhelpful, unhealthy habits and they can become ingrained….even permanent…unless we intentionally do the work to reverse them. Photo Credit: QuoteFancy
Where are you in all this? Please comment below. It would be helpful for us to hear from each other. This is a safe place.
Negativism is contagious, but so is positivity. Both have their own satisfactions. There may come a day that the new-honed habit of negativism turns on us and we see if for the robber it is. Then the work will begin to turn our lives around…before it’s too much damage is done.
If you don’t currently struggle with negativism, take note of those around you who do struggle. This is not something (or someone) to just avoid…this is someone who even the Apostle Paul determined to help…
“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise–dwell on these things.” – Philippians 4:8
3 Tips for Decreasing Workplace Negativity – [written with a Human Resources focus]
Turning Around Negative Attitudes [a must read for supervisors and managers]