Tag Archives: Negativity

Monday Morning Moment – Leadership, Criticism, and the Man (or Woman) in the Arena

Photo Credit: YouTube

Monday’s are exceptional days of the week. You may enter it with one focus or resolve and then discover a golden nugget that takes you a very different direction. It happened to me this morning.

My temptation was to vent frustration over a situation where leadership leans toward being restrictive, exclusive, and narrow in focus. Aren’t you glad I am not writing about that today?!

[I’ve written previously about negativity and how to turn it around – here, here, and here. No matter how consequential the issue, criticism won’t get us where we want to go.]

As I pondered how to address the topic in a positive, redemptive way, I came across a wise friend’s Facebook post that pointed me to an edited video of a talk given by author and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown.

She was addressing an audience of young “creatives”.  She encouraged them to “show up and be seen”, but in so doing, there is a consequence. We will, at times, get our behinds busted, so to speak.

She referenced a riveting speech that President Theodore Roosevelt gave in 1910, shortly after he left office. I do not remember ever hearing this speech until today. Below is the excerpt that Brown quoted:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I was deeply humbled by the wisdom of that speech.

Our leaders all have their own arenas. You have yours. I have mine. It is not my desire to exit the place where I am called to serve, to create, to fight battles meant for me…just to become a critical or negative spectator in another’s arena.

There are times when our battle is made harder by another…by one who could alter our circumstance, who could provide assistance, who could hear our cry for help…and doesn’t heed. It happens.

Yet…it doesn’t take away the cause I’m meant to hold dear…and the one for which I am to fight. It certainly doesn’t warrant me leaving my battle to judge his or hers.

Brené Brown gave a strong warning to both the unengaged leader and the critical employee:

“If you’re in the cheap seats, not putting yourself on the line, and just talking about how I could do it better, I’m in no way interested in your feedback.”Brené Brown

Scorching, right?

This Monday my thinking and life direction went a different way than at first it was headed. Are there times when we speak to leaders, imploring them to consider another way? Of course…but never so much that we take our eyes off our own work…our own arena.

Let’s get after it!

YouTube Video – Brené Brown – The Man in the Arena Speech (edited)

YouTube Video – Brené Brown – Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count

“Citizenship in a Republic” – Theodore Roosevelt speech, April 23, 1910

Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” – Erin McCarthy

Monday Morning Moment – Rewiring Your Brain Toward Thinking in the Positive

Photo Credit: Hubspot, Carly Stec

OK…so today started really great. Then it got a bit murky…then downright dark. I was all set to turn today’s blog into the ultimate rant! Fortunately, something else happened along the way.Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Looking up meanings to words like “disingenuous” and thinking of the ways that people communicate that shut others down. Aarrgghh!

25 Phrases That Kill Workplace Relationships – John Rampton

Which of These Incredibly Annoying Pet Peeves is the Worst? – Analise Dubner

Then…I snapped out of it. Negative thinking is such an unhelpful, unhealthy activity. It is not how I want to be, nor was I ever…routinely negative, that is… until recent years. Getting older seems to bend us toward negativity. My mama sure didn’t raise me to be that way.Photo Credit: Disney Film Bambi, CineLessons, Pinterest

Somewhere in the middle of beefing up my rants on condescension  and exclusivity and those most affected by decision-making not having a place at that table (see the downward spiral?)…I took a deep breath and turned around. Dave will sometimes tell me “pull up” when he could see me mentally plunge downward…and so I did…pull up.

You may have read what I wrote previously about identifying negativity and correcting course. It seems to be a bit of a recurrent subject of late. Those pieces are here:

Monday Morning Moment – Grumpy Begets Grumpy – Understanding It, Not Reacting, and Turning It Around – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Negativity – Its Cost and Cure – Deb Mills

Today, I came across a super-simple prescription for rewiring our thinking toward positivity. The team at Daily Health Post focused on complaining as a culprit that can actually cause our brains to default to anxiety and depression. From experience, I know this is true. Check out the article below:

How Complaining Physically Rewires Your Brain to Be Anxious and Depressed

Photo Credit: Daily Health Post

The prescription for rewiring our thinking is straightforward and easy, with practice. In fact, these four reminders could easily sit on a card at our work station to help us stay on the road and out of the ditch:

  • Be grateful. – Keep a journal and write down things/persons for which you’re grateful – morning and evening. Turn your thoughts toward gratitude when you’re tempted to go negative/complaining.
  • Catch yourself. – Shake off the negativity before your friends/coworkers intervene…or pull away. Learn to catch yourself and change course.
  • Change your mood. – If your emotions start to spiral, shift your environment. Take a walk. Listen to music. Step away from your work station. Grab a few minutes with a friend.
  • Practice wise effort. – Wise effort is the practice of letting go of anything that doesn’t serve you. If your worry won’t improve your situation or teach you a lesson, simply let it go and move on.This is much easier said then done, of course, but if you write it out, ask friends for advice, and take some time to think it through constructively, it really can be done.” – Daily Health Post

All this is common sense. Still, in an age of outrage, we must practice thinking positively until it becomes a discipline…a healthy habit.

So…as fascinating as you would have found my rant, I’m sure…better to let it go…and the stress along with it. For now. There are things, destructive hurtful actions (or communications) that might need our intervention along the way. However, we only hurt ourselves and those closest to us when we just go all negative, faithless, and brooding. Thanking God, this is not how this day will end.

The Art of Being a Great Coworker: 13 Ways to Improve Your Work Relationships – Carly Stec

Photo Credit: Frank Sonnenberg Online

Monday Morning Moment – When You Walk Out of a Meeting, and You Ask Yourself, “What Just Happened?”

Photo Credit: Media.Defense

Have you had that experience? Where you are meeting with your supervisor…either one-on-one or during a team meeting. She is guiding the conversation and asking compelling questions. Then you give your take on something, and it is as if you’re speaking another language. Then you make the judgment that this isn’t the meeting for you to lay out a strategy or viewpoint, so you stay silent. The meeting ends with your boss commending you/everyone in the room on a good outcome…”we got a lot done”.

Hmmmmm…”What just happened?”

I’ll never forget a strategy meeting earlier in my career. Fairly new to the team, I had been faithful to task in learning the processes and applying myself to fitting into the structure rhythms of our work team. When my supervisor called me in to talk about future directions, he asked my input on our marketing strategies. I actually thought he wanted to know what I thought. As we dialogued back and forth about what we were doing and what we could do to strengthen our messaging, I felt like a genuine and valued part of the team. Then my earnestness and enthusiasm must have gone too far. He commended my “good ideas” (a phrase that has come to mean a negative since then) and asked me to draw up a 5-year plan and we’d talk about those ideas again then.

Although he and I remain friends, we no longer work together. I never did that plan. The kind of work we did was so rapid in it evolution and execution that a 5-year plan was clearly irrelevant. It was clearly just a delay tactic for me to take my “good ideas” and tamp them down.

Not bitter…just wiser. So for that I’m thankful.

A meeting…or series of encounters that leave you wondering “what just happened” could relate to many factors. Culture shift, mission drift, power mongering. Any other factors come to mind for you?

I’d like to pose 3 actions that might help in awkward situations like these. They are by no means comprehensive. Just three helps.

1) Take notes in meetings. Put away your phones and other electronic devices. Pen and pad. Not being distracted by anything else will keep you more fully engaged with the conversation at hand. Note-taking is not for everyone, but you’ll be surprised how helpful it will be to refer back to the meeting conversation. Who said what? Where were the good ideas coming from? What were the responses? You can then keep communication going after the meeting in a healthy manner. You have captured the essence of what happened…important information is not lost…whatever happens next (execution of a plan or further planning meetings) potentially have the clarity you missed in today’s meeting.Photo Credit: PxHere

By the way, maybe someone is already tasked with note-taking. It’s for your sake…maybe only your sake. Worth it if you’ve been having head-scratching experiences of late.

2) Refuse to think ill of others. – Whenever possible, keep your thoughts away from negativity. Especially in judging the motives and character of people you work with. When we operate out of a determination to think well of them, communication can have greater clarity. For sure from our side. It’s when we allow our thoughts to go negative that we conversations can go murky.

Photo Credit: Entrepreneur

Now, there are limits to this, and I get that. In fact, we are wise to isolate out those who have shown themselves untrustworthy. Dr. Henry Cloud wrote the book  Necessary Endings which has an excellent chapter on the three kinds of people in the world – wise, foolish, and evil. Cloud explores, with little sentimentality, how we are to act in the company of each. I’m sure we all hope to find ourselves among the wise.

Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward – Henry Cloud

Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Workplace Wisdom – Deb Mills

3) Recognize that “gaslighting” can be operating in a meeting and no, you’re not going crazy. Recognize it; don’t take it personally; deflect; confront the perpetrator. Move on if possible.

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.” – Wikipedia

“Gaslighting is a colloquial term that describes a type of psychological abuse in which the abuser denies the victim’s reality, causing him/her to question him/herself, his/her memory, or his/her perceptions. The term gaslighting is also sometimes used to apply to the use of inflammatory behavior or language that provokes someone to behave in an uncharacteristic way.” – TheGoodTherapy.org Team

Photo Credit: Style Whack

I wrote about gaslighting before here.

Gaslighting for BeginnersGaslighting Techniques to Use at Work – Sarah Cooper

Gaslighting often happens in relationships when one person uses a sometimes subtle manipulation to cause the other to think maybe she/he misunderstood or over-reacted to something the former did or said. In this unhealthy situation repeated over the course of the relationship, the one being “gaslighted” can begin to distrust her/himself and even go as far as to question their sanity.

I have had this experience and it is highly unsettling.

Ironically, gaslighting can be done by a “good guy” who has developed some habits he uses without mean intent. It can happen to all of us…I’m thinking.

Read psychologist Stephanie Sarkis‘ two pieces below. Very helpful.

11 Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship

Are Gaslighters Aware of What They Do? – Stephanie Sarkis

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

You’re Not Going Crazy: 15 Signs You’re a Victim of Gaslighting – Aletheia Luna

The Culture of Any Organization Is Shaped…By the Worst Behavior the Leader Is Willing to Tolerate – Rich Lochner

Gaslighting in the Workplace Part 1 – What Is Gaslighting and Who Does It? – Heather Bowden

Gaslighting in the Workplace Part 2 – Oh no! I’m a Gaslighter! – Heather Bowden

If you got to the end of all this, here is quite a different piece on “What just happened?” – when your boss may be impressed with you without showing it. Enjoy!

12 Signs Your Boss Is Impressed with You, Even Thought It Doesn’t Seem Like It – Aine Cain

Monday Morning Moment – Negativism – Its Cost and Cure

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 flipping 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).

 15 Ways to Turn Negative Energy Into Positive SolutionsJon Gordon

  • Psychologists link negative thinking to depression, anxiety, chronic worry and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).  Almost all human beings contend with it — even those born with a positive outlook.

    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.

How to Turn Around Your Negative Thinking Scott Bea

  • Value the negative experiences.
  • Don’t rush judgment.
  • Take complete responsibility for your life.

3 Ways to Turn Negative Experiences AroundMatt Mayberry

  • 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.

5 Tips to Help You Lose Your Negative Attitude at WorkDawn Rosenberg McKay

  • 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.

“The Nattering Nabobs of Negativism”Gary Weiner

[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]